Convention History

Over the years, ZTA Convention has changed in format, growing along with the Fraternity, but the core structure of Convention is still very similar to the first gathering in 1903.

Speakers, programming and quality time with sisters of all ages from across the country are still highlights. However, jobs, schoolwork and finances prevent members from gathering at a camp or resort for a week or longer as in years past. Long-held traditions like choir performances, skit nights and off-site field trips have been removed from the agenda to shorten Convention to less than a week, but other practices remain very much in place.

Bonding with new sisters at Convention is one of the most exciting parts of this biennial gathering, whether it’s during programming or in free time. In the past, attendees often roomed with three or more people. At Convention 1923, delegates had 10 women to a tent or cabin at a camp in the Colorado mountains!

For the first time in 18 years, a commemorative Convention photo will be taken as yet another way to celebrate 125 years of Zeta Tau Alpha. In decades past, Convention photos were a tradition. The earliest group photos, hanging on the walls of the Historical and Educational Center and in our Research Library at International Office, are very casual, but the photos from the 1930s through the 2000s show hundreds of women, all dressed in white. As Convention attendance grew, it became harder to get everyone in the photo, and the process took up a lot of valuable meeting time. Convention 2006 was the last time a group photo was taken, where more than 1,000 sisters posed. Zetas who register for Convention full-time or add “Friday Experiences” to their itinerary will be included in the 2024 commemorative photo.

Most Zetas associate Convention with awards, but did you know awards have not always been part of the experience? Now, the Recognition Banquet is a thrilling night where the Fraternity presents major Silver Awards for varying accomplishments, but the tradition began with just one small silver trophy, given out at Convention 1930 in French Lick, Indiana, to the individual with the highest grade point average in the Fraternity.

ne aspect of Convention that never changes is ritual services. The Installation of National Council and the ZTA Memorial Service are commonly held at Convention. The Memorial Service was previously conducted outside as the sun was rising; but as the number of Convention attendees grew, it was no longer practical to set up hundreds of chairs outside the hotel, and it was harder to keep the service private. Even now, seeing a sea of sisters dressed in white walking silently through hotel hallways is an impressive sight.

Convention 1923

Although we adapt traditions over time at these biennial gatherings out of necessity, the true purpose of Convention remains the same: to participate in the governing of the Fraternity, celebrate successes and strengthen sisterhood.