One of Tri Delta’s Founders, Sarah Ida Shaw, Boston University, also served as its first president from 1888 to 1893. A brilliant young woman, she graduated first in her high school class before enrolling at Boston University, where along with Eleanor Dorcas Pond she envisioned the idea of Tri Delta as “a society that shall be kind alike to all and think more of the girl’s inner self and character than of her personal appearance.” Drawing on her extensive reading in areas as diverse as Egyption mythology, classical languages, mathematics, and astronomy, Shaw played a crucial role in developing the Fraternity’s ritual, emblems, badges, and other traditions.
During Tri Delta’s early years, Shaw was a committed advocate for expanding the Fraternity’s presence on other campuses. She led the effort to establish Epsilon Chapter at Knox College in Illinois, contacting a local sorority there and granting a charter on July 9, 1889. Shaw was a strong believer that Tri Delta should be national in scope, with chapters in each region of the country, rather than being limited to its New England origins.
After graduating from Boston University, Sarah Ida Shaw became a teacher of German and classical languages, in addition to her ongoing service to Tri Delta as grand president, grand commissioner of education (1893-1897), and grand historian (1897-1900). In 1896, she married William Holmes Martin, a widowed father of two, and began to go by the name Ida Shaw Martin. Throughout this period in her life, Martin continued to regularly attend conventions and contribute articles to The Trident, keeping in close contact with Tri Delta as the organization grew.
In addition to her service to Tri Delta, Martin also became a prominent leader in the growing Panhellenic community. In 1907, she published the first edition of The Sorority Handbook, a publication that collected data on existing sororities and offered advice on the organization of national sororities and local chapters. Eleven subsequent editions followed, the last of which was published in 1931. Martin also served as the sorority correspondent for Banta’s Greek Exchange, and, in the 1920s, organized the Sorority Service Bureau, through which she offered advice and support for many different Greek organizations.
Martin was also a committed supporter of women’s education and belonged to many organizations to further that cause, including the Southern Association of College Women, the American Association of University Women, and the National Association of Deans of Women. She also served as president of the Girls’ Latin School Alumnae Association.
Ida Shaw Martin passed away at her home in Roxbury, Massachusetts, on May 11, 1940. In 1976, she was posthumously inducted into the Fraternity-Sorority Hall of Fame in recognition of her tremendous contributions to the fraternity and sorority community. She was only the second woman to be so honored. In 1972, Tri Delta renamed its annual Leadership Award in her honor.