Even though I know Betsy deserves it, I suffer for her when the bolts from the blue start coming: first, she and the other Okto Deltas are excluded from heading committees for the Junior/Senior Banquet. Then, much, much worse – Miss Clarke unhappily tells Betsy that there is bad feeling against the sorority and for that reason she won’t be asked to represent the Zets in the Essay Contest (and we all know this should have been Betsy’s time after she squandered her opportunity freshman year and then broke up with Phil Brandish right before the sophomore year essay) (it is endearing how indignant Joe is on Betsy’s behalf when he hears the news).
Next, Julia comes home unexpectedly from the U to reveal that Rush Week, which she and the whole family had eagerly awaited, has been bitterly painful. The Epsilon Iotas have dropped her! Someone in the group has blackballed her! This is the first time that the beautiful and talented Julia hasn’t gotten her way. Mr. Ray is indignant but sees the larger picture, “Julia isn’t the only little girl whose feelings have been hurt, I imagine,” he said. “It’s a mighty funny thing that the State University, supported by the public, can have private clubs which are so important.” But privately he and Mrs. Ray decide they will allow Julia to follow her voice teacher to Germany to study music seriously. They decide to wait until after Rush Week to tell her. In fact, as you know, the Epsilon Iotas relent at the last minute and Julia is voted it. I don’t know if we’ve ever discussed the fact that Julia’s flirtatious ways finally caught up with her – the woman blackballing her is upset because Julia stole her boyfriend, something Julia had joked about earlier in the book.
The next bolt from the blue is when Alice reveals that Tony was suspended for coming to school drunk, and has been “going around with a perfectly awful girl.” Without the Crowd to keep him engaged in wholesome activities, he has gone to the dogs, and that can at least be partially attributed to the Okto Deltas (although admittedly, everyone wanted him in the fraternity and he was the one who rejected it - even if exclusive, it would have been better than drinking and playing pool in inappropriate parts of Deep Valley - yes, even Deep Valley apparently has its dark side). Betsy knows she let Tony down. When Miss Bangeter asks Carney to persuade the other girls to end Okto Delta, Betsy is relieved. She knows it’s time.
There was an interesting article in the Washington Post this week about the 100th anniversary of the Delta Sigma Theta, a sorority with a history of public service which the largest African-American women's organization in the country . “Well-known Deltas include: Betty Shabazz, the widow of Malcolm X; civil rights icon Fannie Lou Hamer; human rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune; actress Ruby Dee; singers Roberta Flack, Aretha Franklin and Lena Horne; and congresswomen Shirley Chisholm and Barbara Jordan.” The achievements of these women (and many less famous) make their sorority sound quite admirable, and of course most modern sororities emphasize community service to some extent so I am not condemning all sororities by any means but my college didn’t have any so my experience is all second hand. The closest I got was when my aunt was chosen the Sweetheart of Sigma Chi when she was at Duke and I was about 12.
In contrast to all this gloom, the funniest chapter in BWAJ (and one of the funniest in the high school books) is when Betsy, Tacy and Tib suddenly realize their herbarium assignment is due, but that must wait for another day.