Emma F. Lowd was born in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1865. Months before she graduated from Boston University in 1887, she became a charter member of the Delta chapter of Gamma Phi Beta. The chapter was installed on April 22, 1887 at an apartment at 180 Columbus Avenue.
A Gamma Phi friend said of her:
Her position in Gamma Phi has always been that of an alumna; for Delta was founded in April of her senior year, 1887, and she graduated in June – again a reason why she is especially well trained to be an adviser. Of course you already know that shew as an early president of Gamma Phi – the first to be sent to a convention at the sorority’s expense – a big step forward.
In addition to an undergraduate degree from Boston University she also earned an A.M. from BU in 1907. She took post-grad courses at Columbia University and Oxford and Cambridge Universities in England.
Her professional career was in education, first in Massachusetts and then in New York City. It began at Falmouth High School where she spent two years as an assistant to the principal. She then went to Stoneham, Massachusetts. Lowd spent three years teaching there and almost a decade at Salem High School. Her specialties were English, French and history.
In 1902, she began teaching at newly opened Wadleigh High School in New York City, Established in 1902, the legacy of Wadleigh is one of living history. Named for Lydia Fowler Wadleigh, the principal of the first public high school for girls. She then went to the Twelfth Street Annex (later known as Girls’ Technical High School and then Washington Irving High School). Lowd served there as head of the English department and then a first assistant in English in 1909. She also served as principal of the East Side Evening High School for Women and later began working at the evening high school at Washington Irving. In 1914, the Superintendent transferred her to Morris High School.
Lowd was active in teaching associations. According to Elizabeth Putnam Clark, “She was one of the teachers who went to Albany, year after year, fighting to get through the equal pay bill for female teachers in New York.” She was delegate from the National Education Association to the World Conference of Education Associations in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1925.
In 1927, the Morris High Senior yearbook was dedicated to her. The tribute included this view of her character, “Common sense and firmness, method and order, have always marked her work. Justice, tempered with kindness of heart, has constituted her attitude; perseverance has been her watch word.” It was also said of her, “In the field of education, she has always cleared away stumps, plowed and harrowed, and sown good grain.”
As a young alumna she served as National Secretary (twice), treasurer and national president in 1902-1903. She was active in the New York City Alumnae Chapter and the New York City Alumnae Panhellenic. She also served as Gamma Phi representative in the funding and building of the Panhellenic House (Beekman Tower).
After retiring and moving back to Massachusetts, she served as Province I Director from 1927-1929. She was able to attend the November 12, 1928, Founders’ Day celebration at the Panhellenic House in NYC.
At the sorority’s 1929 Kansas City Convention, she served as parliamentarian. The convention writeup in The Crescent of Gamma Phi Beta included this query, “Who is the patient-looking woman whose face bespeaks loyalty, wisdom, and judicial ability, who sits at Elizabeth Barbour’s left?”
Lowd was present at the 50th anniversary banquet of Delta chapter in 1937. She was the first speaker and gave the attendees a glimpse of the young women who started the chapter. The birthday cake was placed in front of her and she cut the first few pieces. Three of the five living charter members attended the banquet.
She died on April 4, 1944 and is buried in Salem, Massachusetts.