In 1888, women were not permitted to vote, and few women were found in the workplace or at the formerly all-male universities. It was natural for women students to join together in small groups for friendship and support.
Although there were three women’s groups represented at Boston University in 1888, Sarah Ida Shaw saw a need for a group which would be different from the others. She said to her friend, Eleanor Dorcas Pond, “Let us found a society that shall be kind alike to all and think more of a girl’s inner self and character than of her personal appearance.”
So the two young women began the work of creating a new national fraternity. Later Sarah wrote, “…The two enthusiastic friends were unaware of the fact that there was something stupendous about the task they had set hands, heads and hearts to accomplish. They were working for a principle, and it never occurred to them that there could be such a thing as failure. Earnestness of purpose, energy and enthusiasm had brought them both success in college and why should not these same qualities bring assurance of good fortune to the new venture.”
Not only did they found a fraternity, but at the same time they wrote the rituals and constitution, and designed the emblems.
The choosing of the name was a joint decision. Eleanor suggested a triple letter and Sarah chose the letter and worked on the Greek mottos and passwords. Inspiration for these came from a variety of sources: Egyptian lore, Hindu mysticism, Greek and astronomy, reflecting the wide and various interests of Sarah Ida Shaw.
Sarah’s words of the founding,”At last, all was finished on Tuesday…November 27, 1888, but there was one more meeting of the two friends on the following afternoon before they separated for the Thanksgiving recess, at the top of the college building in what was then the Philological Library. It was there that the two girls embraced each other and said ‘Tri Delta is founded’…It is not strange that the hearts of these sponsors were full of emotion as together they went out of the college building, for each felt there were added reasons why her Thanksgiving should be a very happy one. When they came to the parting of the ways at the historic Boston Common, Miss Pond said, ‘We can make the girls we initiate promise secrecy, but what shall hold us two?’ So there in the shadow of the old Park Street Church, with a bright new moon and three brilliant stars nearby…the two faithful friends clasped hands and said, ‘In the presence of these myriads of witnesses, I swear eternal loyalty and fealty to Delta Delta Delta.'”