This provides a glimpse of some of the women who helped mold a legacy to make Delta Sigma Theta a powerful force — more than a sorority.
Osceola Macarthy Adams, a founding member of Delta, was one of the first Black actresses on Broadway. She was the Director of the Harlem School of the Arts and directed the theatrical debuts of Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier.
Sadie T. M. Alexander, Ph.D., 1st National President (1919-1923), was the nation’s first woman to earn a Ph.D. in economics (1921). A distinguished attorney, she was among the founders of the National Bar Association (1925) and she was appointed to President Truman’s Commission on Civil Rights (1945).
Tina Allen, sculptor and painter recently sculpted a life-sized bust of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She is the conceptual designer of two major international projects: The International Children’s Peace Park and the Monumental Statue of Nelson Mandela. Ms. Allen has received the Essence Award, the Stellar Award and the Thurgood Marshall Lifetime Achievement Award.
Brigadier General Hazel Johnson Brown, Ph.D., was the first African American woman general in the United States Army.
Selma Burke, Ph.D., sculptor, won the 1943 Fine Arts Competition for the District of Columbia for a profile of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. This artwork was adapted for the United States dime.
Alexa Canady, M.D., at age 26 became the first Black woman neurosurgeon in the United States. She specializes in pediatric neurosurgery.
Elizabeth Catlett is an internationally acclaimed sculptor and lithographer. She is noted for the vast range of works she creates, including life-size sculptures and even larger pieces.
Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman member of the U.S. Congress, was the first African American and first woman to run as a major party candidate for the presidency of the United States.
Ruby Dee Davis is an extraordinary actress with performance credits on stage, in film and on television. She has also written a collection of poetry.
Myrlie Evers-Williams is the Chairman Emerita of the Board for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Frankie M. Freeman, noted attorney and 14th National President (1967-1971), was the first woman appointed to the Civil Rights Commission by President Lyndon B. Johnson and served 16 years.
Patricia Roberts Harris served as Delta Sigma Theta’s first Executive Director. She was also the first Black woman to be appointed ambassador to a European country (Luxembourg) and to be appointed to a presidential cabinet post as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). She was later appointed as Secretary of Health and Human Services. In January 2000, she was honored on the 23rd commemorative stamp in the United States Postal Service’s Black Heritage Series. Other Deltas that have been ambassadors are Ann Holloway and Bynthis Perry.
Dorothy I. Height, Ph.D., 10th National President (1947-1956), was appointed by President Carter to the Presidential Commission on a National Agenda for the 1980s. She has served as president of the National Council of Negro Women for over 40 years.
Alexis Herman was the Secretary of Labor and a Cabinet Member in the administration of President William Clinton.
Darlene Clark Hine, Ph.D., noted author, built her career on researching, publishing and raising the bar of how the experience of African American women should be recorded. She was the first African American to become the John A. Hannah of History Endowed Chair at Michigan State University.
Shirley Jackson, Ph.D., is the 18th President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She is the first African-American woman to head a leading technological university, the first African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (in 1973), and she was the first African-American woman to become a commissioner of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Elaine R. Jones is the first woman to serve as Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. She is also the first African American woman graduate of the University of Virginia Law School and the first African American woman elected to the American Bar Association Board of Governors.
Barbara Jordan was the first African-American to serve in the U.S. congress from the South since reconstruction; first Black woman to preside over a state senate; and the first Black person to deliver the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention.
Jewel S. Lafontant was the first American woman to be admitted into the International Academy of Trial Lawyers. She was also the first female Deputy Solicitor General of the U.S. during the Nixon Administration.
Carrie P. Meek is a Congresswoman in the United States House of Representatives for the 17th District of Florida.
Jane E. Smith, Ph.D. served as the President and CEO of the National Council of Negro Women.
Mary Church Terrell was the first African American chosen to represent the United States Congress of Women and to serve on the board of education of a major city.
Rae Lewis-Thornton is an AIDS activist who has been featured on the cover of Essence magazine, as well as in numerous feature stories in Ebony and Emerge magazines, Chicago Tribune newspaper, Chicago Sun Times newspaper, and the Washington Post. She was also featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show, and Nightline with Ted Koppel. She received an Emmy award in 1996 for her WBBM-TV’s ongoing series of first person stories on living with AIDS.
Stephanie Tubbs-Jones was a Congresswoman in the United States House of Representatives for the 11th District of Ohio.
Barbara Watson was first African American woman to serve as chief of a State Department bureau. She became Administrator of the Bureau of Security and Consular Affairs on July 31, 1968, served until December 31, 1974, and was re-appointed on April 7, 1977. On August 17 of that year, she became Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs.