EVENT ALERT: Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc to Place Headstone on Original Founder's Philadelphia Gravesite

By Gloria Dulan-Wilson

Hello All:

Philadelphia Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority is poised to make history on March 28th, as they prepare to erect a monumental headstone at the Eden Cemetery, at the grave of one of their original founders, Mrs. Pauline Richardson Oberdorfer Minor, who was an educator and musician in Philly.

The formal Last Rites, called the Omega-Omega ceremony, will take at the First African Baptist Church, 901 Clifton Avenue (Darby Township) at 10:00AM; followed by the official unveiling of the monument at the Historic Eden Cemetery, 1434 Springfield Road in Collingdale at 11:30.  This historic event is open to the public, and all are invited to attend.  *There will be a ceremonial luncheon which follows at the Oaks Ballroom at 511 W. Oak Lane in Glenolden.

Pauline Oberdorfer Minor is Delta Sigma Theta royalty!  She was one of the original founders,  so the upcoming event and ritual are even more historically significant, because it will be the first time any of the current members will have the opportunity and privilege to perform last rites services for a founding member.   The "Omega-Omega"  is the last rite accorded all members of Black Greek Letter Organizations upon their transition; but the event for Pauline Oberdorfer Minor is so momentous, it will be presided over by Dr.Thelma T. Daley, Delta's 16th National  and National Co-Chair Rituals and Ceremonies, according to Philadelphia Alumnae Chapter President Maxine C. Harvey. Additional information can be had by calling or texting 215-791-2863.

Historically speaking, on January 13, 1913 Delta Sigma Theta Sorority was born.  However, it took  the hard work, dedication, insight, creativity, love and courage of 22 wonderful college women, of whom Pauline Oberdorfer Minor was an integral part, to bring it to fruition.   Delta  triumphantly celebrated its Centennial on January 13, 2013.  100 years of service to the nation that started with 22 college women who wanted to dedicate their lives and efforts to making a difference in the world.

Needless to say, the excitement and buzz among the Philadelphia Alumnae Chapter sorority members is one of high energy as they set forth their plans to commemorate this wonderful Philadelphia woman, who, along with 21 other young women at Howard University, established Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.  as a social service Black Greek organization dedicated to the upliftment and education of Black people.  There is a feeling of gratitude as they speak of what it took to bring this about at a time when none of the technology we enjoy today was even thought of.

As a young girl Ms. Minor was sent from Charlottesville, VA to live with relatives in Philadelphia.  She  had attended Girls High School which was then located in South Philadelphia.   She was only one of four African Americans in Girls High, but she excelled in all her classes.  Owing to her fine mind and academic standing, she received a church scholarship to attend Howard University in Washington DC. 

It was stated by one of the researchers on the committee that Howard University co-eds for the most part came from relatively well-to-do families, unlike Pauline; but she was so well bred and refined that she held her own among them.  At the time she helped establish Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, she was relatively quiet, but she had a great deal of knowledge and dedication.  As a result she served as the Sorority's first national treasurer.

The first activity of Delta Sigma Theta's as a sorority was to march along with Susan B. Anthony and the Suffragettes in the march for equal rights for women and the right to vote.  Along side her was the great journalist and activist Ida B. Wells Barnett. From the outset, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority  made it known that it was taking an active role in being catalysts for change. 

After gradating from Howard as the Valedictorian of her class at Teachers' College, she taught for a period of time in South Carolina and Alabama, but eventually returned to Philadelphia to continue her teaching career.

Her talents were widely known and respected  as a musician, a vocalist  and a composer, having written some 40 songs in a book on hymns entitled Soul Echoes, which included such hymnals as  "Get Off the Judgment Seat" and "The Lord is my Refuge."

Born in 1885, Ms. Minor passed in 1963 at the age of 79.  It was learned that she had become somewhat of a recluse in her later years, and had lost communication with her Sorors.  Sadly, because she had no next of kin, she had been buried in a pauper's grave at Eden Cemetery along with three other individuals.  The sorority, unfortunately, had not been notified of her demise, or the fact that she had apparently fallen on difficult times; and have only recently come to the realization of the horrific circumstances  that had befallen their beloved founder.

After doing some intensive research to be sure they had the most accurate, up to date information, a committee formed of chapter Sorors began intensive research to obtain as much information about her life as possible and determined that they would pay for a proper monument to mark her grave and perform the last rites ceremony in her honor.  While it is the custom to perform last rites for all members, this upcoming even is even more important because of the personage for whom it is being given.  . 

Eden Cemetery is itself a place of historical significance for African Americans, having been founded specifically for burying African Americans, opened in August 1902 after five Philadelphia business owners pooled their resources to purchase 53 acres of land in the Delaware Valley.  To date there are some 90,000 African Americans, from the great to the ordinary citizen, interred there.  Most have monuments and headstones erected by their families, friends and associates.

Ms. Oberdorfer Minor's unfortunately was not one of those, and the Philadelphia Alumnae Chapter Sorors developed the project to honor this great woman nearly a year ago.  The monument, which stands nearly five feet tall, is custom designed with a likeness of Ms. Minor etched in the stone. It will bear her name as well as the names of the other individuals with whom she is buried.

The dignity, affection, awe and inspiration surrounding this most sacred trust on the part of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. members, can only paralleled by the rituals for fallen soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.  The look of pride and joy on the face of the committee members as they culminate the plans for this momentous occasion is inspiring.  One senses the depth of honor such an event means to each and every participant on the committee, as well as the sorority across the nation.

And, while  this is truly an historical moment - one which must be chronicled for generations to come, it's not just for Delta Sigma Theta Sorority alone.  This bears significance for Black people in general, and Philadelphians in particular.  There are more Black historically significant residents per square mile in Philadelphia than there is in the entire US.  It's amazing how close in proximity we all live, but don't realize the impact we have on daily lives of so many people for years to come.

It is so essential to honor those who have come before us - just as it is important to honor our contemporaries - because in so many ways they've made it their business to put us first in their lives.  They've dedicated and devoted their energies, wisdom, knowledge, creativity to us as a people - many times not really knowing what the outcome of those efforts would be, but nevertheless willing to take the time and effort to take up the challenge.  As part of the human continuum, we each stand on the shoulders of someone who came before us to lift us higher.

For that reason and so many more, the commemoration of Pauline Richardson Oberdorfer, Minor on Saturday, March 28, 2015, will serve to lift us even higher.  It is anticipated that members of Delta Sigma Theta from surrounding chapters, as well as New York City, New Jersey, Baltimore, Washington DC, Delaware, Chester, and beyond will be present for this auspicious occasion as Delta Sigma Theta Inc. Philadelphia Alumnae Chapter honors its Ancestor/Angel Pauline Oberdorfer Minor. 

Stay Blessed &

Gloria Dulan-Wilson


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