Happy Founders’ Day to my fellow Phi Mus! The Philomathean Literary Society was founded on March 4, 1852 at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia by Mary Elizabeth Myrick, Mary Ann Dupont, and Martha Bibb Hardaway. Phi Mu is generally recognized as the second women’s Greek letter organization and counts among its members Joyce Carol Oates, Kimberly Schlapman, Miss Terry Saban… and me.
I know, I know. I can literally hear some of y’all rolling your eyes. Heather, you’re over forty. Why are you wasting time talking about a club you belonged to in the Nineties?
So, here’s the thing. I believe that my sorority experience has prepared me for more life experiences than I could have possibly imagined when I joined Phi Mu in the early 1990s. So many social interactions — from successfully planning and executing a charity event to powering through a bad job interview — were in some way, impacted by my sorority experience. I can’t say it often enough: Phi Mu provided the proper tools for social and professional success in my life. (My Phi Mu sisters Beth and Sarah recently recorded an amazing podcast episode about the impact Phi Mu had on their lives; it’s well worth a listen!)
The most important lesson I learned from my four years in a sorority is that “you don’t have to like someone to love them.” Think about the power of those words for a minute. It’s such a crucial lesson, really, and yet we forget it so often. You’re not going to like everyone you deal with, even if you’re working on a shared goal or project. Being able to acknowledge that you don’t care for someone personally but are still aligned in your larger goals is a skill that most everyone should apply to work, family, church, politics, sports… really, anywhere that there’s a unified group of individuals!! And, trust me, if you have a group of over a hundred girls in their late teens and early twenties, there are bound to be disagreements. The maturity and grace to deal with these situations are more valuable lessons than those learned in many of the classes I took in undergrad. (Haven’t done much algebra lately, you know…)
Because I did have such an amazing sorority experience, I’ve found myself seeking out other women’s organizations. I loved being an alumna adviser for my sorority — an opportunity to, hopefully, share my own professional and personal experiences in a way that benefitted younger Phi Mus. I loved working as an alumna adviser and mentor to collegiate members; it’s just so amazing to watch college-age women figure out who they are and become poised and capable leaders, and feel that, just maybe, you helped them achieve this.
Over the years, I’ve belonged to three Junior League chapters as well as a local woman’s club here in Louisville. I’ve sought out opportunities to volunteer, raise money, and otherwise make a difference with like-minded women. It’s just so great to have a built-in support system. I was hospitalized a few years ago, and a group of folks whom I hadn’t known very long went out of their way to bring us dinner for weeks, simply because I was in Younger Woman’s Club with them! It was so humbling, and an act of sisterhood that reminded me why I always seek out women’s organizations: they provide a safety net and a safe space to grow, no matter your age.
In honor of Women’s History Month, Draper James has redesigned their Sisterhood tee and released a few more inspiring pieces to celebrate women’s friendships. Speaking of Draper James, I can’t say enough good about the women of DJ’s Lexington store — another amazing group of women whom I’m so blessed to know! Since June 2018, Draper James has graciously allowed me to host three shop and sip events benefiting Dress for Success in their stores. Our total to date is $950 donated directly to the Lexington Dress for Success affiliate by Draper James. It’s so wonderful to watch a core group of HerKentucky readers turn out time and again to help raise money for a charity that helps empower women. And, as a result of our partnership, the Lexington Draper James store now regularly donates “damages” (merchandise with minor flaws such as loose buttons that are not in sellable condition) directly to Dress for Success Lexington. How amazing is that? I truly do believe that a small group of talented and motivated women can achieve great things; it’s the power of sisterhood, y’all!