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Mon, 11.02.1896

Mary Lou Allison Gardner Little, Educator born.

Mary Lou Allison Gardner Little

*Mary Lou Allison Gardner Little was born on this date in 1896.  She was a Black teacher and sorority administrator.

Mary Lou Allison was born in Kentucky and moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, with her parents. After their parents were killed in late 1899, she was separated from her brother and raised by a family friend, Katie Johnson, in Indianapolis. She had a scholarship to the John Herron Art Institute during high school and graduated from Shortridge High School in Indianapolis in 1915.

1918 Allison earned her teaching certificate in 1918 from Indianapolis Normal School. She taught in Indianapolis from 1918 to 1925. In 1919, Allison began attending Butler University as a part-time student. In 1922, she gathered a group of her friends at her home to discuss forming a sorority to raise teachers’ standards by encouraging them to go beyond their normal school training and pursue undergraduate degrees.

On November 12, 1922, Allison and six of her best friends created Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, an organization for African American educated women to unite and form a sisterhood. Soon after founding the organization, Allison realized she wanted to appeal to more women worldwide. She became the organization’s first national president (Grand Basileus) from 1925 until 1926, wrote its pledge, and helped evolve into a national community service sorority. In 1929, the Sorority became incorporated into the national collegiate Sorority, establishing the Alpha Chapter on the Butler campus.

In 1928, she moved to Los Angeles, California, with her first husband, Wilford Gardner, where she enrolled at the University of California, Los Angeles. After becoming a widow, she married Roy Little in 1949. They later divorced. Little taught in the Los Angeles school system for 35 years and retired in 1967. Mary Lou Allison Gardner Little died on March 8, 1992, aged 95, in Los Angeles.

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