While male Greek life had existed at Muhlenberg since the mid-nineteenth century, in the early years of coeducation at Muhlenberg, women found sisterhood on campus in different ways. Women living on the same floors or wings of dormitories would compete as teams in contests such as the Spring Sing. In 1959, Bernheim House became the first non-dormitory women’s residence.
According to the Muhlenberg Weekly, the topic of sororities came up each year, to mixed reception. In 1960, the majority opinion among the “coeds” was that the female population on campus was simply too small (around 100) to necessitate sororities.
By the early 1980s, the desire for sororities had grown along with the population of women. It appears that a rumor had existed for years on campus that the food service company M.W. Wood (now Sodexo) had an agreement in its contract that forbade the establishment of sororities on campus. In dismissing this rumor, Dean of Students L. Dale LeCount said that the onus for establishing sororities on campus was on the women of Muhlenberg.
In the 1970s and early ’80s, “special interest” housing had become popular at the College. Small houses such as Millerheim, Henrietta, Eve Elizabeth, and Frederick Augustus would accommodate either female or male students in alternating years, and these cohorts would commit to particular themes. Prior to the arrival of sororities in the mid-1980s, these houses provided a similar experience in some ways.
In the fall of 1983, a student committee interviewed five sororities for consideration of founding a chapter at Muhlenberg: Alpha Chi Omega, Phi Sigma Sigma, Delta Zeta, Sigma Sigma Sigma, and Sigma Kappa. The three selected were approved by the administration, and recruitment efforts for the first “colonies” began in the spring of 1984. Interest was high, and the new sisters set about working towards chapter status. The first rush was held in January 1985.
The short-term plan for meeting space was renovation of a room in the basement of Brown Hall, but long-term housing was a concern. Perhaps inevitably, the special interest houses came under consideration. In the spring of 1986, in spite of protest from advocates who saw the need for housing for unaffiliated independent groups, the houses were assigned to the sororities: Millerheim to Alpha Chi Alpha, Frederick Augustus to Delta Zeta, and Henrietta to Phi Sigma Sigma.
Phi Mu established a chapter at Muhlenberg during the 1991-92 academic year. For the first two years the sisters met in a suite in East Hall, but in 1994 they moved to MacGregor 103, and in 1995 to their current residence at 330 North 22nd St.
Muhlenberg’s fifth sorority, the Theta Nu Xi Multicultural Sorority, was colonized in 2003 and chartered in 2010; its members met in the Multicultural Center. The chapter is not currently active.