In 1931, sororities could count more than three-quarters of the women students as members. However, despite enjoying strong popularity, the often exclusive organizations came under fire.
Molly Yard, a member of the Class of 1933 and later a president of the National Organization for Women, calls the fight to abolish the sorority system at Swarthmore her first political campaign. In a 2000 interview, she described the discrimination against Jewish students that prompted her action: one student was barred from Chi Omega, her older sister's sorority; another was refused by her own sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta.
"We carried the matter all the way to the national office," Yard said. When they said no, she stated, "That did it. We organized a campaign."The Phoenix referred to the several months that followed as the "women's fraternity agitation." And the agitation only increased after the vote, run by the Women's Student Government Association, was taken.
"When we voted to abolish the system, all hell broke loose," Yard said. "Alums descended on the college. Because of the pressure, President Aydelotte decided to put off the decision for a year. I remember how furious I was at him. I ran to his door and banged on it, and he said, 'What's the matter, Molly? Are you afraid to take a vote again next year?' And I said, 'Of course not.'"The next year, an even greater number voted to uphold the ban. "That," Yard said, "was how it was done."