The Aglaia of Phi Mu

Alpha Chapter minutes indicate that on January 7, 1907, a decision was made to issue a publication every commencement and send it to the alumnae. A publication committee was appointed the following February 15.

The name Phi Mu Aglaia was adopted on April 1, 1907, and the first issue appeared one month later. It had three editors, all Alpha Chapter members, who offered it “with the sincere hope that they may…contribute something of real worth” to the Greek world.

Delegates to the first National Convention (1907) voted to continue publication of The Phi Mu Aglaia. They specified that it be a quarterly, rather than annual, publication with an editor-in-chief from Alpha Chapter and an assistant editor from each of the other chapters.

“The Aglaia will be the medium through which they [college administrators and other Greek-letter groups] will watch us most closely. And here we must put forth our best effort,” National President Louise Monning Elliott wrote to Alpha Chapter in 1912.

Though the first issue was later marked as volume one, some Phi Mus expressed the feeling that it should have been designated volume 34 to indicate it was an outgrowth of the Philomathean Gazette, whose last volume was numbered 33. In fact, at the 1923 National Convention an attempt was made to change the name of Phi Mu’s quarterly magazine to Philomathean Gazette in order to establish a direct link to the Philomathean publication. The motion was lost, however, and the name Aglaia was retained.

 The Meaning of “Aglaia”
Why the name was chosen remains a mystery. Nowhere in any Phi Mu publication or correspondence is there an explanation of the meaning of the word aglaia or the reason the unusual name was favored. A thorough effort in 1952 to interview Alpha Chapter members of the turn-of-the-century era yielded no clues.

Aglaia was one of the three Graces commonly mentioned in Greek mythology who, according to reference books, were “graceful and beautiful maidens, intimate with the muses and attendants oftenest of Eros, Aphrodite and Dionysus.” In mythology, Aglaia is said to stand for “brilliance” and have control over pleasure and companionship. Her sister goddess Euphrosyne stood for “joy” or “charm,” and the third Grace, Thalia, represented “bloom” or “beauty.” Perhaps the connection with companionship and pleasure attracted the early Alpha Chapter members to Aglaia.

Upon reading an article in a 1983 Aglaia concerning the magazine’s history and its name, George T. Kilavos, National President of Theta Chi, wrote to Phi Mu offering an explanation that is fascinating to consider. He wrote:

“May I submit to you my thoughts regarding the name, having done similar research for Theta Chi Fraternity, as the Greek National President.

After years of plain covers, pictures were added to the upper half of Aglaia covers in the 1950s.

Unusual Features
The earliest issues of The Aglaia were basically printed matter, with few pictures. Although there were constant requests from the membership for pictures, there simply were not sufficient funds for that expense. By 1925, The Aglaia’s financial situation had been stabilized, and a highly successful and attractive feature of the magazine from 1927 to 1955 was the Phi Mu Pictorial, a center section of pictures reproduced in sepia tone. The Aglaia was the first of the NPC sororities to use a pictorial section as a regular feature.

From 1925 to 1954, it was customary to picture each collegiate and alumna delegate who would be attending convention, along with a short biographical sketch of each. This was, of course, easier to accomplish when the Fraternity’s total membership was one-fifth what it was in the year 2000.

In 1982 The Aglaia took on a new look as editors began using four-color pictures in each issue and adopted new formats with greater emphasis on photographs and graphics.

Poetry by members often was found in early issues – sometimes even songs, complete with musical scores. In the 1920s a book review section was begun, and in the 1930s selected senior essays and occasional editorials were printed.

In a 1909 issue, the initiates for the year were listed. There were 61 welcomed into the bond of Phi Mu nationwide that year. For a few years beginning in the mid-1960s, the listing of initiates once again became a regular yearly feature. The summer 1976 issue listed 2,191 initiates.

A calendar containing report dates for alumnae and collegiate chapter officers appeared for the first time in the January 1918 issue. This was a useful feature until it was discontinued in 1965.

This sampling of Aglaias illustrates some of the changes in size, style and title design through the years. The cover on the fall 1960 issue (middle image) was in four colors and received a Fraternity Month award. The image on the far right is the first issue of the larger size adopted in 1972.
This sampling of Aglaias illustrates some of the changes in size, style and title design through the years. The cover on the fall 1960 issue (middle image) was in four colors and received a Fraternity Month award. The image on the far right is the first issue of the larger size adopted in 1972.
Covers Pictured: 2007 Winter/Spring issue of The Aglaia; 2009 Fall issue of The Aglaia; and 2014 Fall issue of The Aglaia.

Not receiving your copy of The Aglaia?
To receive all three printed issues of The Aglaia, a Phi Mu member must be in good financial standing with the Fraternity. Also, Phi Mu Alumnae must pay their annual $20.00 Forever Faithful dues, (https://www.phimu.org/foreverfaithful) or participate in one of the four Phi Mu Foundation giving programs (http://phimufoundation.org/ways-to-give/giving-programs/).

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