The Aristocrat, the Friend, the Scholar, the Artist
As Gamma Phi Beta was expanding and maturing, the four Founders were busy building their domestic lives. Mary Whitford (Syracuse, 1878), who was the 21st initiate of Gamma Phi Beta, wrote in 1941 of each of the four Founders, attributing a one-word description to each of them. She labeled Mary Alice Bingham “the aristocrat.” “Minnie Bingham, the youngest of the four,” she wrote, “had more advantages than the others, was always beautifully dressed, seemed instinctively to know the correct thing to do, and was at ease in any situation.” Mary’s spiritual nature is evidenced throughout her life. She enjoyed carriage rides, particularly at sunset when, as she wrote, “the rosy afterglow pronounced a benediction.” She married Edward A. Willoughby, also from Rome, New York, in January 1883. They had two children: a daughter, Ernestine Bingham Willoughby, born in 1883, and a son, Francis Daniel Willoughby, born in 1887.
Eunice Adeline Curtis, or “Addie,” was dubbed “the friend” among the four Founders. A kind and generous young lady with a most cheerful demeanor, she was known for the large entourage of people from all walks of life whom she called friends. Addie and her husband Frank had two sons: Edward Day Curtis, born in 1880, and Kenneth Wheaton Curtis, born in 1884, who died as an infant in 1885.
Helen, “the scholar,” once wrote, “While at Cazenovia (Seminary), I made the one great and all-important decision, and consecrated my life to the service of God.” Not surprisingly then, Helen married the Rev. J. V. Ferguson on October 12, 1886. The couple never had children and Helen was at liberty to continue her education, largely through travel. She remained interested in the issues of the day and was very involved in local charitable and educational organizations. Many years later she wrote, “I found great pleasure in the work of a minister’s wife…whatever duties or obligations claim my attention, those belonging to the Church are always given the precedence.”
Founders’ portraits painted by Jeanne Stauffer Beaudry (Syracuse, 1936).