The Phi Mu Badge

An early 1900s badge was smaller and incorporated Greek letters. A Wesleyan Female College stickpin is used as a guard.

Except in size and the extent of embellishment to the background, the badge changed little during the 52 years of the Philomathean Society. When the Society became Phi Mu Fraternity in 1904 and chapters were added, standardization was necessary.

The matter of changing the badge to conform to fraternity badges of the time was put in the hands of a committee appointed by Alpha Chapter. Minutes of Alpha Chapter in the months following incorporation as Phi Mu Fraternity reveal the evolution of the badge from the individualized Philomathean badge to a standardized Phi Mu badge.

On February 6, 1905, Alpha members decided to change the regulation badge “with the consent of the alumnae.” At the next meeting, February 15, Alpha voted to substitute the Greek letters ΦΜ for “Les Soeurs Fideles” at the top of the badge and to place three stars at the bottom. The 24-stone badge was declared “regulation.”

D. L. Auld and Company, the Fraternity’s first jeweler, recommended that black enamel be used for the shield and that the emblems be shown in gold.The small size made it necessary to eliminate the motto, but it was then placed on the new coat of arms. This constitutes the only substantial change in the badge symbolism since 1852.

The first official Phi Mu badge was D. L. Auld and Company’s “No. 1” size, a size somewhat smaller than those of today. It was officially selected at the 1908 National Convention.

An even smaller badge also was being made during this period, but it was not considered “official,” and members were warned against its use. “It has been reported by various inspectors that the ‘No. 0’ size was being used by some chapters for regular badges,” the 1912 Secret Bulletin complained. “This small size was made purely for novelty mountings. It may be ‘cute’ but it has no dignity, and cuteness has no place in the symbol of a national fraternity. Notice is hereby given that the Custodian of the Badge will o.k. no orders after January 1, 1913, for any badges other than the No. 1 size.” Some of the tiny badges dating prior to 1913 are still in existence.

The 1913 convention specified that the Phi Mu badge could be jeweled to suit the tastes and desires of each member. Any stones could be used, the ruling stated. But the most commonly seen – even now – are rubies and pearls, signifying the rose and white of Phi Mu.

The official badge of Phi Mu Fraternity can be jeweled as the member desires.
The official badge of Phi Mu Fraternity can be jeweled as the member desires.

During World War II, the process of jeweling badges was changed because proper-sized stones were not available. The condition continued until 1957. With National Council’s permission, L. G. Balfour Company, official jeweler then, cut new dies for Phi Mu badges and used slightly smaller stones with 28 settings in place of the former 24. In 1957, the company was able to obtain a sufficient order of the larger pearls to return to the former badge dies using 24 larger stones. No change has been made since.

The Phi Mu badge has been described as “unique” in shape and has elicited compliments. It has been cited for awards for its unusual beauty of design. Although its shape is readily recognized and acknowledged by those outside the Fraternity, it is the member who understands and appreciates its deeper meanings and covets her right to wear it.

Guards for Badges: Delegates to the 1916 National Convention authorized guards to be worn with badges.

The single Greek letter or double-letter combination of a chapter’s name could then be attached to the badge with fine gold chain. The guards are made of plain or “chased” (embossed) gold and in some cases are jeweled. Guards have continued to be popular with members into the 21st century.

Wearing of the Badge
“The badge is the symbol of the fraternity, it being the outward expression of Phi Mu’s deep inner meanings, and its natural position is directly over the heart,” according to the national Constitution and Bylaws of 1908.

But in Philomathean years, the badge — then a much larger piece of jewelry – was worn frequently on collars and as a brooch, as well as in the familiar position over the heart. There appeared to be no standard for wearing the badge. Because of their large size, the Philomathean badges certainly did not lend themselves to other forms of jewelry, such as rings.

But as Phi Mu Fraternity was established nationally, the official badge was standardized at the smallest size in its history. The small badges, not much larger than today’s provisional member pins, soon began to appear on rings.

This practice gained some popularity during the 1910 era, to the point that the 1913 convention decided something must be done to stop the trend.The matter was brought up for discussion, but no action was taken except to urge chapters to discourage the practice and to enforce the ruling of the 1908 convention that “All Phi Mus, whether active or alumnae, be compelled henceforth to wear pins, and as far as possible, in an inconspicuous place.” This was explained to mean “the left side of the shirtwaist, winter and summer, and under no conditions on the coat.”

The 1913 convention also agreed the badge should not be used for “utilitarian purposes,” and 1916 delegates ordered that it be “worn as a pin and on no other jewelry whatsoever.” The location over the heart soon became traditional, and the weight of tradition soon made it sacred.

(The custom of wearing medals and decorations on the left breast is traced by some historians to the practice of the Crusaders who wore the badge of their order near the heart. Also, the left side was the shield side, for they carried their large shields on the left arm, thus protecting both the heart and the badge of honor.)

It was not until 1970 that a convention ruled that the badge might be worn in other ways. Even then, the opportunity to wear it “as a ring, pendant, bracelet charm or brooch” was granted only to alumnae members. There was considerable discussion among delegates before traditionalists conceded to being outnumbered by those who saw this as a chance to display their lovely jeweled badges rather than having them stored away unused and unseen. Even the bylaws committee that presented the amendment was not in full agreement, but the majority of them decided the change should be presented.

As alumnae began converting their badges to attractive rings and charms, enthusiasm for the idea gained momentum. Coupled with the opposition to fraternities at the time that kept many a collegian from wearing her badge on campus, this led to the introduction of an amendment at the 1974 convention to extend to collegiate members the same privilege of converting the badge to other forms of jewelry.

The discussion was heated and confused. There were persistent but unsuccessful attempts to require collegiate members who might convert a badge to jewelry to also have in her possession a badge to “wear over her heart” in the traditional manner.

National President Martha Huggins Pugh, Alpha Gamma, called for a standing vote. When it was counted, it was found the “aye” votes lacked one of constituting the required nine-tenths, and the National President cast the vote that carried the motion.

Phi Mu was the first National Panhellenic Conference fraternity to allow alternate uses of the badge. Several other women’s groups followed with similar legislation but few badges convert as beautifully to rings and pendants as does Phi Mu’s badge.

Ten years after this action was taken, National Council approved the manufacture of a small “pinkie” ring that displays the interior portion of the badge, without a gold rim or jewels. It was designed by J. O. Pollack Company, official jeweler. Since it incorporates the symbolism of the badge, the ring’s use is restricted to initiated members and must be ordered through the Executive Office. Council cautioned, however, that the ring was not to be used as a substitute for the regulation badge.

Wearing of Badges by Men
It was the custom in Philomathean years to invite males to honorary membership. They were given a form of the badge to wear to identify them as honorary members. It was a stickpin on which there was a tiny replica of the badge. The emblem was in gold and black and was about 3/8 x 1/4 inches in size.

Around the turn of the 20th century, a custom developed of male friends sometimes wearing the actual badge, just as women wear the fraternity badge of their fiancé or “steady boyfriend.”

This became a matter of discussion at the 1908 National Convention. One of the questions posed by the Grand President to the convention was, “Shall any further restrictions be placed upon wearing the pin? That is, shall it be confined to brother, father, husband, and affianced?”

The History of Phi Mu Fraternity published in 1927 minimized the problem by saying it “had never been the custom” generally. Yet there were sufficient cases, and they were persistent enough, that the matter warranted the attention of several conventions.

A motion was made at the 1908 convention that “only in case of engagement shall any man be allowed to wear a Phi Mu pin.” There followed immediately a counter motion that “no man, whether engaged or otherwise, shall be allowed to wear a Phi Mu pin.”

The battle lines were drawn, and a heated discussion ensued. After much argument, the second motion was withdrawn, and the original motion was carried and added to the Constitution and Bylaws. But the matter did not rest there. At the 1911 convention it again came up for discussion, and this time a motion passed that “wearing of pins by men under any condition be discouraged – even in case of engagement.”

The following year, the Secret Bulletin of September 1912 reported:

“It is practically an unheard of thing now that any man ever wears a Phi Mu badge under any circumstances, but there is nothing in our Constitutional Law to absolutely prohibit the custom, hence the Council advises that the clause which now reads ‘that men’s wearing the badge be decidedly discouraged’ be amended to read ‘that the custom of men’s wearing the Phi Mu badge be not tolerated under any conditions.’ ”

Such a provision was passed at the 1913 convention.

Source: Lamb, Annadell. C. The History of Phi Mu: The First 150 Years. The Grace Group, 2002. Print.