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OUR HISTORY 

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Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. was founded on the campus of Howard University on January 16, 1920 as the sister organization to Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. Five phenomenal women: Arizona Cleaver Stemons, Pearl Anna Neal, Myrtle Tyler Faithful, Viola Tyler Goings, and Fannie Pettie Watts chartered Zeta Phi Beta Sorority to encourage the highest standards of scholarship through scientific, literary, cultural and educational programs; promote service projects on college campuses and in the community; foster sisterhood; and exemplify the ideal of Finer Womanhood.

The Founders of Zeta were strong, principled coeds who possessed a great deal of modesty, strength of character and pride in academic achievement. They are indeed a worthy foundation upon which to base our illustrious Sorority.

 

Arizona Cleaver Stemons: Arizona Cleaver was the first president of Alpha chapter and the first national president of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority. She completed her graduate and post-graduate studies in the field of social work and was responsible for chartering numerous undergraduate and graduate chapters throughout the United States.

 

Pearl Anna Neal: After graduating from Howard University’s Conservatory of Music, Founder Neal continued her studies at the Julliard School of Music. In 1938, she was the first black woman in New York to earn a master’s degree in music from Columbia University. An extremely accomplished musician, Founder Neal taught music in North Carolina public schools and served as a director of seniors majoring in music at Teachers College in Winston Salem, NC.

 

Myrtle Tyler Faithful: Myrtle Tyler was the second national president of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority and blood sister to Viola Tyler. A high school mathematics and English teacher, Founder Tyler was an active member of Alpha Zeta chapter in Baltimore, Maryland.

 

Viola Tyler Goings: Viola Tyler graduated from Howard University with a teaching degree and a major in math. She taught school in Ohio for many years and was always very active in community affairs.

 

Fannie Pettie Watts: Fannie Pettie graduated from Howard with a Bachelor of Arts degree in education and taught junior and senior high schools in Savannah, Georgia. She was credited with organizing two additional Zeta chapters and had active membership in Delta Alpha Zeta chapter.

 

First Initiates

Although there were five Founders of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., there were many women who were initially interested but did not become a part of the founding group. Many feared the high academic standards they would need to meet to become a part of this new organization, others could not afford the initiation fee that appears nominal by today’s standards. However, soon after the light of Zeta shone clearly through our Five Pearls, there were twenty-five women eager to join the Zeta movement. Of these twenty-five, only four – Gladys Warrington, Harriet Dorsey, Pauline Phillips and Nellie Singfield – went on to be initiated as a part of the second pledge class. Zeta Phi Beta took top scholastic honors on the Howard University campus when a member of this second pledge class, Pauline Phillips, graduated summa cum laude, thus setting a precedent of academic excellence still expected of Zeta members to this day.


Zeta Phi Beta’s mission is to foster the ideals of community service, scholarship, sisterly love, and Finer Womanhood. These ideals are reflected in the sorority’s national programs for which its members and auxiliary groups provide many hours of voluntary service to staff community outreach programs, fund scholarships, support organized charities, and promote legislation for social and civic change.  Since its inception the sorority has chronicled a number of “firsts” among the established black sororities.  In addition to being the only organization constitutionally bound to a fraternity, the sorority was the first to charter international chapters in West Africa and Germany, to form adult and youth auxiliary groups, and to organize its internal affairs within a central office, administered by a paid staff. The sorority has continued to expand by chartering chapters in London, Abu Dhabi, Belgium, St. Thomas and  Trinidad & Tobago.

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