The History Behind Our Badge
Since our Fraternity’s founding, the golden Quill of Alpha Xi Delta has been an outward, visible link that binds all Sisters, from coast to coast and around the world. But why was the quill pen chosen as our badge?
Founder Lewie Strong Taylor, who designed our Quill badge, received part of her design inspiration from the quote, “The pen is mightier than the sword,” which acknowledges Alpha Xi Delta’s commitment to academic excellence. Her grandfather also inspired her. Said Mrs. Taylor, “When I was a young girl, my grandfather whittled the end of a nice quill from the poultry yard, shaping it into a pen to show me how he used to write when he was a boy. This was interesting to me.”
“When I was in Galesburg, attending Lombard College, the 10 girls who formed the first group of Alpha Xi Delta were each asked to submit a design for a pin to be worn to distinguish its members. I thought of the quill pen my grandfather had used and how it would look in gold and of the significance of the pen, and I did not hesitate to ask for its consideration. I was not greatly surprised when it was accepted as I felt sure it would mean much to each one of our members.”
Lewie Strong’s design had a rose above the quill pen, but it was omitted on the advice of the jeweler who said the rose would be structurally unstable. The original Quill badges were smaller than they are today – about seven-eighths of an inch long compared to the current length of 1¼ inches – and were set on stickpins. Several years later, the stickpin was changed to a badge with a clasp, which is still used today. As Founder, Almira Cheney noted, “Being stickpins, with a tiny prong guard, we promptly lost them during the first few years. I believe I still had mine when I graduated in 1896, but had lost it by 1913.”
The first jeweled Quill was made for Founder Cora Bollinger Block by Lamphere Jewelers in Galesburg, Illinois. It was set with three jewels on the shaft of the quill – a sapphire, which was adopted as the Fraternity’s official jewel in 1894, flanked on each side with a turquoise, representing the light and dark blue colors of our Fraternity. Gold was not added to our colors until Alpha Xi Delta became a national fraternity with the installation of Beta Chapter at Iowa Wesleyan College in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. Gold was also added to differentiate our Fraternity from Kappa Kappa Gamma, which had already chosen light and dark blue as its official colors.
After Alpha Xi Delta became a national fraternity, the lack of a uniform badge became a growing concern among members. The first indication of a desire for a standardization of our badge was made in the address of Grand President Ella Boston Leib to the Fifth Convention in 1909. In 1911, a definite die was chosen for the official badge, and the choice of jewels was limited to pearls and diamonds, set within the shaft, alone or in combination, At the 1911 Convention, it was also adopted that an official jeweler be appointed to further ensure the uniformity of our badge. Our golden Quill, which is also available in sterling silver, has remained the same since that time.
This article originally appeared in the 2008 spring issue of The Quill.
We love wearing them on our wedding gowns! This is the lovely Sara Greene on her big day!
I cannot wait until May to wear mine!