Nellie M. Quander


Nellie M. Quander



        The first supreme basileus of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Nellie Quander, was 
born in Washington, D.C., February 11, 1880.  Her parents were John Pierson 
Quander and Hannah Bruce Ford Quander.  John Pierson Quander was a direct 
descendant of Nancy and Charles Quander, Nancy having been among the slaves 
freed by President George Washington in his last will and testament.  Hannah 
Bruce Ford Quander was a direct descendant of West Ford, the slave-born 
putative son of Bushrod Washington, nephew of George Washington.  It was West
Ford, who based upon his personal recollection, provided the Mount Vernon 
Ladies Association with the intimate details of the interior decoration of 
the Mount Vernon Plantation when the association purchased it in the 1850s 
and decided to restore it to historical accuracy. 
        Ms. Quander attended Washington public schools and graduated with 
honors from Miner Normal School. in 1901, she began a long and productive 
career at the Garrison School.  By being such an eager student, she was able 
to combine teaching in the Washington public schools with attendance at 
Howard University.  She received the Bachelor of Arts degree, magna cum 
laude, from Howard University in June 1912, having majored in history, 
economics and political science.
        Ms. Quander had a successful career as a teacher in the District of 
Columbia school system.  She took a one-year leave of absence during the 
school year 1914 to 1915 to study at Columbia University and completed the 
requirements for the Master of Arts degree.  For the school year 1916 to 1917,
Ms. Quander was granted a second leave of absence to serve as special field 
agent for the Children's Bureau of the Department of Labor.  During this 
assignment, she studied the social and economic conditions among mentally 
handicapped persons in New Castle County, Delaware.  This study had been 
requested by the Women's Clubs of the County in preparation for the 
establishment of an institution for the handicapped.
        She earned a Certificate of Social Work from the New York University 
School of Social Work.  She later studied for two summers in the school of 
economics of the University of Washington.  In 1936, she obtained a diploma 
from Uppsala University in Uppsala, Sweden.  While visiting Europe that year,
she attended the International Conference on Social Work held in London, 
        For more than 30 years, Ms. Quander taught social studies in the 
junior high schools of Washington, D.C. While at Shaw Junior High School, she 
organized the first School Safety Patrol Unit in the city and continued the 
sponsoring of this activity for 25 years.
        Ms. Quander was initiated into Alpha Chapter in the spring of 1910 
and became basileus of the chapter in 1912.  Because of her unique role with 
the founders, she aided in resolution of the most serious crisis in the earl), 
years of the organization.  As an undergraduate, Ms. Quander had taken 
several courses in argumentation and in public speaking; and for a project in
one of her classes, had made a study of the effect of Greek letter 
organizations on campus life.  After extensive study into the history 
structure and background of these organizations, she concluded that as a 
sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha must continue to exist and become incorporated, 
She planned the incorporation, and on January 29, 1913, Articles of 
Incorporation were filed with the Recorder of Deeds in Washington, D.C. Thus,
Alpha Kappa Alpha, the first sorority for Black women in America, became the 
first to be incorporated.
        Ms. Quander was named supreme basileus of Alpha Kappa Alpha, an 
office she held until December 1919.  She organized and presided at the first
Boule held at Howard University in 1918, and the second held in Chicago in 
1919.  At the second Boule, she relinquished the office of supreme basileus 
and was elected the first Eastern Region organizer.
        Ms. Quander continued to serve the sorority in numerous ways through 
the years.  She wrote the preamble to the constitution-, she worked with 
Founder Beulah Burke in organizing Beta, Gamma and Delta Chapters.  On 
November 25, 1916, she personally established Zeta Chapter at Wilberforce 
        Ms. Quander remained with Alpha Chapter even after the establishment 
of Xi Omega Chapter in Washington, D.C., to advise and assist Alpha Chapter. 
Thus, she anticipated the function of the graduate advisor before that office
was formally established.
        One of the major organizations with which she worked was the YWCA.  
Locally, she was a board member and chairman of the Young Women's Department 
of the YWCA; member of the board of directors of the Phillis Wheatley YWCA; 
chairman of the Business Professional and Industrial Committee of the Phillis
Wheatley YWCA-, and special industrial field secretary of the National YWCA.
        Ms. Quander continued with other civic and religious activities.  
She supported the union movement.  She became a delegate from the teachers 
union to the Women's Trade Union League.  She served as executive secretary 
of the Miner Community Center.  She was secretary of the trustee board of 
Lincoln Temple Congregational Church.
        Nellie M. Quander died suddenly at her home on Saturday, October 23, 
1961.  She is buried in Washington, D.C.
        Ms. Quander never married and her only immediate surviving relative 
was her sister, Susie; but she had several nephews and many friends.  She 
belonged to the famous Quander (Guan-do) family which in 1984 could document 
three hundred years of residence in Maryland and Virginia.  The Quander 
family has what is considered to be the longest documented record of free 
Black lineage in America.  Nellie Quander was a granddaughter of Daniel and 
Hannah Bruce, prominent free Blacks, and a grandniece of Blanche K. Bruce who, 
during Reconstruction, served a full term as a senator from Mississippi.
        A scholarship endowment of $125,000 has been established at Howard 
University by Alpha Chapter alumnae and other sorors to honor Ms. Quander.  
The drive to establish and collect this fund was led by the late Esther 
Garland Polard, a Howard University trustee and a past officer of Alpha Kappa
Alpha.  The endowment culminated in 1984 at the Diamond jubilee Boule with a 
presentation of the principle to Dr. James Cheek, then president of Howard 

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