With a pledge of "faith, service and loyalty to the University of California," Prytanean, the first women's honor organization in the United States, was founded on the Berkeley campus in September 1901. The three women founders had a keen interest in student health care and housing issues, and the organization's work concentrated on those areas for many years.
In later years, work expanded to include awards and support for outstanding scholarship and volunteer activities on behalf of the University by students, faculty, and campus organizations. The original members called themselves the Prytanean Society and were upper division undergraduate students.
Upon the graduation of the three founders, Prytanean Alumnae was established and has operated without interruptions since its inception. Early projects included the establishment of the University Infirmary, later Cowell Hospital and now the Tang Center; support for student housing through a loan and scholarship fund, the creation of Ritter Hall, a women's cooperative dormitory; and aid in establishing the departments of Physical Education for Women, Home Economics, Decorative Arts, and the Center for the Continuing Education for Women.
In 1946, the organization was incorporated as Prytanean Alumnae, Inc. The Articles of Incorporation and the By-laws, amended in 1972 and 1996, support and further define the original ideas of the three women who funded Prytanean. "Faith, service and loyalty to the University of California" remains the pledge of new initiates and the commitment of over 2,500 alumnae.
It has been over 100 years since the three women who founded Prytanaen were on the Berkeley campus. Benjamin Ide Wheeler was then President of the University and there were just over 2,000 students. He was about to introduce the concept of student government, and the three founders were prescient enough to recognize that students could identify and address issues of concern. Imagine what pride the founding members would have in the legacy they left the University, were they to hear each new Prytanean pledge "faith, service and loyalty ot the University of California."