Biographical Database of Black Woman Suffragists

Biography of Madree Penn White, 1892-1967



Madree Penn White (1892-1967)


From the Delta Archives. Reprinted with the permission of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Accessible online at

Madree Penn White was born November 21, 1982 in Atchison, Kansas. She grew up with her parents, John and Mattie Penn and siblings, Elijah, Marshall, Noel, Jenny and William in Omaha, Nebraska.

Madree Penn graduated in 1909 with honors from Central High School in Omaha, Nebraska. She turned down scholarships to the University of Iowa and the University of Nebraska to attend Howard University in Washington, D.C. She was the first female editor of the Howard Journal, the campus newspaper. She was a member of the Classical Club, president of the campus chapter of the YWCA, vice-president of the student branch of the NAACP, vice-president of the Social Science Club, and class journalist, vice-president, and treasurer of her class during her years at Howard. Madree Penn graduated Cum Laude in 1914. Of her graduating class, she was voted “Most Popular” and came in third for “Who Has Done the Most for Howard.” She became an accomplished linguist, speaking German, French, Greek, and Latin.

Madree Penn was the one who first conceived the idea of Delta Sigma Theta in 1912. She was appointed Chair of the committee to draft the new Constitution and Bylaws and to devise the Initiation ritual. Penn, a linguist, selected the Greek symbols for the sorority. She succeeded Myra Davis Hemmings as President. She also held an individual initiation ceremony for Ruby Martin to establish Beta Chapter at Wilberforce during her presidency.

Madree Penn White's participation in the March 1913 Woman Suffrage March in Washington, D.C. led to her being the first Delta ever to have an audience with a President of the United States.

Madree Penn served as the National Journalist under Ethel LaMay Calimese and helped to charter a Delta chapter in St. Louis. She was a member of Omega Chapter (now Greater Cleveland Alumnae Chapter).

Madree Penn married Dr. James Eathel White and had two children, James E. White AND Grace White Ware, who is a Delta. She served as associate editor and business manager of the Omaha Monitor and also formed her own publishing and printing company, the Triangle Press Company in St. Louis, Missouri. Additionally, Madree Penn White served as Associate Editor of the Howard University Alumni Journal. In 1966, she was honored by the League of Women Voters of Cleveland in 1966.

She worked as a substitute Latin teacher in Cleveland, taught at the National Training School for Girls in Washington, D.C, Tucker Business College and Douglas University in St. Louis. Madree Penn White also worked for the Phyllis Wheatley Association in Richmond and Charlotte. Madree

Penn White died on January 31, 1967.


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