The Prytanean Society is the oldest collegiate women’s honorary society in the United States. Founded on the Berkeley campus of the University of California in 1900, Prytanean was established on the Davis campus in 1952 by the Berkeley chapter. The initiation class was made up of sixteen members, several of whom live in Davis today and support the active chapter.
The word Prytanean derives from the Greek word “Prytanes” meaning, in a broad sense, a representative. At once time Ancient Greece was divided into a number of political units, each responsible for sending a representative to the law-making convention in Athens. When the convention was in session, a lamp was kept burning over the door of the building where the meetings of the Council of the Chosen Ones were held. This lamp appears on the Great Seal of the University of California, whose motto is “Let there be light,” and also serves as the Prytanean symbol.
The history of Prytanean is the development of a respected campus organization whose members maintain the high ideals of scholarship, service, friendship, and respect for one another. Its purpose has been to secure due recognition for women of achievement. During the academic year, active membership numbers 40-75 students of diverse ethnic backgrounds and majors from all three colleges. The alumnae membership now numbers over 3,000 women, including physicians, journalists, professors, lawyers, judges, artists, and other outstanding women dedicated to community service. The Davis chapter remains a nexus for active women working toward common goals, both academic and service, within a supportive framework of active members and alumnae.