The Phi Beta Kappa Society is the oldest honorary society in the United States.
The Society was founded at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, on the 5th of December in 1776 and first extended its privileges to women on equal terms with men in 1875. The Society has always remained true to its original purpose in seeking to foster the love of wisdom and sound knowledge and to recognize and promote excellence in learning at the undergraduate level. More information on the history and purpose of the Society can be found at the website of the National Chapter.
Wellesley's Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the Eta Chapter of Massachusetts, was chartered in 1904. In that year, Smith College and Wellesley College became the sixth and seventh chapters in the state (Mount Holyoke's chapter was founded the next year, 1905). The other five chapters previously founded in Massachusetts included the chapters at Harvard (1781), Amherst (1853), Williams (1864), Tufts (1892), and Boston University (1899).