Alpha Omicron Pi began at Barnard College in New York City. Barnard was one of the first colleges in the nation where women could receive the same rigorous and challenging education that was available to men.
Barnard’s “Great and Glorious Class of ‘98” included four especially amazing women: Stella George Stern (Perry), Jessie Wallace Hughan, Helen St. Clair (Mullan) and Elizabeth Heywood Wyman. Stella George Stern Perry was barred from joining another women’s fraternity at Barnard because of anti-Semitism. Because of her exclusion, our four founders decided to found their own women’s fraternity, founded to be inclusive.
In their junior year, on December 23, 1896, the four women climbed the stairs in a small gallery of the old Columbia College Library which led to an old and seldom used room. Amid old grey mullioned Gothic windows with broad window seats and with sunlight streaming gently through the windows and snow lightly drifting outside, the four pledged each other. On January 2, 1897, Alpha Omicron Pi was formally organized at the home of Helen St. Clair. Soon afterward, they four pledged AOΠ’s first initiate to AOΠ’s Alpha Chapter, Ann Richardson Hall.
We are incredibly proud of AOΠ’s legacy but perhaps most impressively, our founders were all dedicated to academic achievement. Jessie Wallace Hughan graduated Phi Beta Kappa, and she forged a long and exemplary career in teaching and school administration. After graduating from Barnard with Phi Beta Kappa honors, Helen St. Clair Mullan went on to graduate first in a class of 300 from New York University Law School, which was an especially impressive achievement for a woman at the time. For 17 years after graduation, Elizabeth Heywood Wyman taught German and English at the Bloomfield (N.J.) High School. After graduation, Stella George Stern Perry went into advertising and eventually started her own advertising agency, handling both local and national accounts. In addition, Stella did editorial work, wrote for periodicals, and had 17 books published. The commitment to lifelong learning and the legacy of our founders is a tradition that AOΠ's proudly embrace.