At the turn of the 20th century, the University of Montana was still in its infancy as an educational institution. Families were sending daughters to the university for the first time and progressive college women were earning their first degrees.
These women leaned on one another at a time when they most needed support. In 1905, two male fraternities existed on the UM campus, but no sorority.
Four yeas later, that all changed.
In 1909, two women's clubs received word that their requests for national charters were granted. This weekend, in connection with UM's Homecoming, those first sororities on campus - Kappa Kappa Gamma and Kappa Alpha Theta - celebrate their 100th birthdays.
About 400 alumnae from the sororities will return to Missoula to visit the houses where they once lived, swapping stories, rekindling friendships and taking part in ceremonies that have been passed down from generation to generation.
Eighty-nine-year-old Pauline Poore's mother helped found Kappa Kappa Gamma a century ago. Poore, a Butte woman who now lives with her daughter in Hamilton, was a Kappa, too. And so was her sister, Jesse. In fact, the family has three generations of Kappa women.
However, Carrie Wharton Wild, one of the first eight women initiated into the UM chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma, probably would never have guessed that more than a half-century later, two of her granddaughters would wear the Greek letters of the sorority across the street, Kappa Alpha Theta.
"My grandmother was probably disappointed, but she came to all my (Theta) functions," said Jesse Appleberry this week at a café in Florence. "My dad used to tell me, 'You did all the wrong things,' " Appleberry said.
"With a smile on his face," Poore chimed in.
Both sororities had humble beginnings. In 1909, the Women's Hall on campus, now the Math Building, was the residence hall for UM's female students. Each sorority, however, resided together in different sections of the building.
The Tremper House on campus, which currently houses the Native American Studies Department, was owned by a family whose daughter was a Theta. Before the sorority owned a house, old photos and documents show Theta gatherings at the Tremper House.
Kappa Alpha Theta resided in a house on University Avenue before it purchased land on Gerald Avenue in 1945. The brick house that currently houses the Theta sorority was the first home in Missoula built specifically for a local Greek organization.
Kappa Kappa Gamma lives in the house of late industrialist John R. Toole, whose daughters were among some of the sorority's initial members. In 1931, Toole's widow, Anna, sold the house to the Kappa Kappa Gamma Alumnae Association. And that's where the sorority sisters live today.
"I'm very proud of her," said Poore when asked what she thought about her mother helping found one of the oldest sororities on the UM campus.
Carrie Wharton Wild, initiated in 1909, was the opposite of what her last name implies. The Butte housewife, art collector and lover of books was proper and remained sharp intellectually well into her older years.
"She loved it," Poore said, recalling discussions she had with her mother about her time in the Kappa sorority. "She made a lot of good friends."
Poore was initiated in 1939.
"It was marvelous," she recalls, of her experience. The house, she says, "was beautiful. I went to all the meetings."
In 1965, Appleberry enrolled at UM as a freshman. At the time, she knew her grandmother had been a Kappa, but she didn't know she was one of the chapter's founding members until later.
"We didn't talk a lot about sororities in a mining town," said Appleberry, who grew up in Butte. "There wasn't a lot of emphasis put on them."
So, when the Theta sorority actively recruited Appleberry during rush week, she signed up.
"The Kappas probably just assumed I'd join," she said.
Much has changed in the last century at each of the sororities.
Kappa president Kayla Hoggatt, 20, of Butte hears stories about a smoking room in the 1970s located on the second floor of the house, which is now known as the library. More than 30 years later, there's no smoking allowed anywhere on the grounds, Hoggatt said.
Prior to the late 1990s, when phone jacks were installed in every room, three telephone lines existed for more than 30 women.
Every day, the women took turns manning the switchboard on the first floor, buzzing their sisters in their rooms when they received calls.
"It was a very advanced phone system," said Suzanne Peterson, the Kappa's chapter adviser. "Now the phone doesn't ring in the house."
Kappa Kappa Gamma's largest pledge class of 26 women occurred in 1934. By the next year, a recruitment quota was established, limiting pledge classes to 15 women. At present, 23 women live in the Kappa sorority, but the sorority is 40 strong.
As for Kappa Alpha Theta, the peak hit in the 1970s, Peterson said, when there were close to 70 members. Today, capacity in the house remains at around 32 women, she said.