“The Lady” was a trophy given to the school by its trustees, and presented each year to the society that won the Trophy Contest. In the early years of the college, there were only two literary societies that would compete: Diokosophian and Peithosophian. These were both sororities (societies for women). Diokosophian, or Diok, as it was called, was organized by the female students in 1874-5. Diokosophian stands for “those who live according to the custom of wisdom”. In 1880 the girls organized another society, which they first called the Evergreens, but then later changed to Peithosophian, or Peith. Peithosophian stands for “persuaders to wisdom.” There were also two literary societies for men, the Whitney Lyceum and Alpha Phi, but it doesn’t seem like they took part in the trophy contest. The college also boasted several dormitory societies, such as “Spook and Spectre” and “Knife, Fork and Spoon”. The college introduced a third literary society the next year, Callilogian. It was founded in 1861 at Pennington Seminary, but moved to Centenary Collegiate Institute at the start of the 1910-1911 school year, when Pennington became an all boys’ school.
The first mention of “The Lady”, as the statue was called, was in the July 1910 issue of The Hackettstonian, the college’s first student newspaper. It stated that the award was presented during commencement exercises that year. In this publication they don’t mention the prize’s name, but describe it in great detail; “The trophy is a handsome piece of gold bronze statuary by a French artist and imported by Tiffany. It rests on a tall mahogany stand…” The trophy resided for a year in the winning society’s hall. In 1910, the award was presented to the Diokosophian Society.
“Through Golden Years”, a history of Centenary Collegiate Institute from 1867 – 1943, explains the rules of the trophy contest. According to “Through Golden Years”, the trophy contest consisted of submissions of the best masterpieces of literature – prose or poetry – that members of the sororities could produce. A large panel of judges comprised of sorority members and faculty then read these submissions and chose the best ones to move forward. The essays finally selected had to be memorized. Final judgment was made on the basis of both literary merit and presentation.
The Lady was presented to the winning sorority for decades until she disappeared. We have no knowledge of where the statue is now, although there is the possibility that she is still on campus. She may be housed somewhere within a building/department that is unaware of her rich history, or she may have been placed in some kind of storage during a move. The other possibility is that she was stolen or sold, although with any luck this is not the case. We all hope that she’ll turn up someday!