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Secret Sisters

3.39  ·  Rating details ·  364 ratings  ·  74 reviews
From the author of The Fifth Avenue Artists Society comes this unforgettable historical novel based on the founding of the country's first sororities.

Illinois, 1881: Whitsitt College sophomore Beth Carrington has two goals to fulfill by the time she graduates: obtain a medical degree, and establish a women’s fraternity, Beta Xi Beta, that will help young women like herself
Paperback, 337 pages
Published July 11th 2017 by Harper Paperbacks
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3.39  · 
Rating details
 ·  364 ratings  ·  74 reviews

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Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
Jul 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arcs
"She told me that memories really are little bits of people's souls that live in the hearts of others."

"Her memories lived inside of us and always would- alive in the hope of our cause, and in the promise of the women we were born to become."

"I promise that above all else, my purpose will be to foster equality and intellect among women."

Secret Sisters is about so much more than the founding of women's fraternities in the late 1800s. This was an easy read that had me thinking about all the meani
Dec 29, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: library-borrowed
As a woman living in the 21st century, Secret Sisters really makes me grateful that I didn't have to put up with the type of bullshit that women used to have to deal with. Imagine that there used to be widespread belief that women's brains couldn't handle higher education because their brains were smaller than mens. It was also surmised that higher education might also lead to us unbalancing our reproductive organs which would cause us to become hysterical and not able to do our" job, which esse ...more
Kate ☀️ Olson
"I promise that above all else, my purpose will be to foster equality and intellect among women" ~ These words of the women's fraternity Beta Xi Beta pledge really do an amazing job of summing up the heart of this novel. Set in 1881 at the fictional co-ed Whitsitt College in Illinois, the story brings together Beth Carrington and her three friends as they fight for equal rights and permission to create a women's fraternity on campus, all against incredibly strong societal discrimination against ...more
Aug 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was a good read. The novel takes place in the 19th century where women studying medicine had a difficult time being accepted into this field. Also tells about a women's sorority being formed and their struggles. I recommend this novel. I received a complimentary copy of this book thanks to the author.
J. Else
Apr 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Illinois, 1881: Beth Carrington is studying to become a doctor, but as the sole female student in the physicians’ program, she is constantly being singled out and penalized for her ambitions by her professors. Most females at Whitsitt College are studying Divinity, so Beth finds herself alone and ostracized. Then she has an inspiration: a women’s fraternity. A society for students like herself so they can connect and support one another. Her roommate Lily, Mary, and another woman staying at the ...more
Alyssa Palombo
Mar 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a vibrant, moving story that is a true testament to the power of sisterhood, to the might of dreams, and to what women can accomplish when we support one another. Unforgettable characters, compelling writing, and vivid period detail combine to tell the story of what women had to fight through to obtain the rights and opportunities that many take for granted today. Don't miss this book!
nikkia neil
thanks Edelweiss for this ARC.

Secret Sisters will have you fuming at the stereotypes women faced even in college. This is a wake up call to women about hwo far we've come but how much work we still face.
Lee Yahnker
Jul 31, 2017 rated it it was ok
This book was supposed to be historical fiction. Yes, sororities did start in the mid west and yes they were modeled after fraternities. These were the only things historical. The plot was too goody goody. Sometimes the women's actions no way fit the time frame of the story. I was very disappointed and had to force myself to finish the book.
Oct 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a well written historical fiction book about the founding of women's sororities in 1881 at Whitsitt College in Illinois. The main character Beth, is the only female in the physician's program. Being the only female, she is constantly being harassed and made fun of for her goal of being a doctor in a time that almost all doctors are male. Most of the females on campus are either in the secretarial program or the divinity program, both acceptable for women of the time. Beth and two of her ...more
Jul 28, 2017 rated it it was ok
Lol, emotional claptrap (i.e., all emotions, no substance). A good idea, but seriously poor execution. The author threw in every stereotype she could think of that happened to women in the late 1800s trying to survive in a mans world just to tug on our emotions. The main character was cranky and inconsistent. She was supposedly a progressive thinker when it came to women's roles, but then refused to do things because it was against social mores. I can't imagine wanting to be her friend since she ...more
Tracey Joseph
Jul 24, 2017 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book, but I found the pace incredibly slow and the storyline not all that engaging
Jul 22, 2017 rated it liked it
I liked the premise, but it was a little too reminiscent of a soap opera for me.
Jul 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Once again, Joy Callaway has crafted a piece of historical fiction that features complex and smart female protagonists who the reader grows to care for deeply due to Callaway's thoughtful character development. The main character, Beth, is really well-balanced -- she has her own career aspirations, but that does not mean that she does not have her own romantic and familial desires. This fictional text about the beginning of the first female fraternity thoughtfully contributes to the important co ...more
Chris Markley
Beth is one of the few women and the only woman medical student at Whitsitt College in 1881. She wants to have support of other women struggling to make it in programs full of men but there are no groups of any kind for women in non traditional programs. When she is stuck at the college over Christmas with 2 other women an idea takes hold, a women's fraternity. But there are many obstacles to overcome and is it worth risking everything for. A story of strong women, friendship, loyalty, and fight ...more
Jul 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
I only gave it 4 stars, as it wrapped up too quickly. I felt that the end could have used more pages. I enjoyed the book, and would recommend it to those looking for a historical fiction novel. It was an easy read, and I liked the characters.

Thanks Oakville Public Library for an ARC!
Poem Fanatic
Jun 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"I have to commend Joy Callaway on- before the multitude of other things I'd love to commend her for- her impeccable ability to paint emotions onto the page. As each of the characters struggle with their own problems, they are all given equal importance regardless of the fact that the narration is in Beth's point of view."

Read my full review at:
Apr 26, 2017 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 21, 2017 rated it liked it
It's 1811, in Illinois, at a college called Whitsitt, where women have been enrolled, but most are pursuing studies of Divinity. Rules at the college strictly prohibit "costumes of an unfavorable length and hats in the gathering room".

Beth Carrington wants to be a physician, although Harvard professor Edward Clarke has recently put forth a theory that "women in strenuous courses of study would develop monstrous brains, puny bodies, and weak digestion". There are men's fraternities, and there ar
Rachael Schuler
Oct 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
As someone who belongs to a sorority and still very much enjoys its benefits as an alumnae, I highly recommend this book! If you've ever been curious about why sororities are important or how they came about then you will want to read this historical, fictional account of how they began.

My enjoyment of this book was increased by the fact that the author, Joy Callaway, joined us at our book club review last evening. It was interesting to hear about her research especially as it pertained to my so
Apr 27, 2017 rated it liked it
Thanks to Goodreads and Harper for letting me read and review this ARC.

I'm not a big historical reader especially in the 1800's, but it was interesting nonetheless. I liked the tenacity of Beth and her friends, not only because they wanted to start a fraternity (really sorority) but also because of their ambitions and goals in life, especially Beth, who wanted to be a doctor and was basically shunned by all of her professors. It was sad when Mary died though.
Ellen Adams
Nov 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this book to be a quick and engaging read. I’m a Pi Beta Phi from Clemson and have a daughter who recently went through rush prompting me to remember my own experiences. This book reminded me of studying for my pledge tests many years ago and appreciating the women ho blazed the trails so that we could enjoy some of the same benefits afforded men so many years ago. I found the story to be believable and well written. I’ll definitely be looking her other works.
Feb 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in2017
This was a really great story, very into it.

I needed about 100% more Will than I got, and I absolutely needed more of that romance.
Apr 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017, first-reads
Interesting look at the forming of the first women's fraternity. Also women's education in the late 1800s. liked that it took place in Il
Sep 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Thank you to Harper Collins for giving me a copy of Secret Sisters in exchange for an honest review.

I had the opportunity to share Joy Callaway’s debut novel The Fifth Avenue Artists Society. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to share Secret Sisters. Joy writes historical fiction and once again she takes from a part of her own history. Secret Sisters tells the story of how female fraternities began in the United States. Many of us now would know the female group as sororities.


Aug 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Okay. If you have followed me at all (which, you should be following all the time) you know I LURVE Joy’s first book, The Fifth Avenue Artist Society. It speaks to me in ways very few books can because I am Ginny, Fifth Avenue‘s protagonist.

I’m also a proud Kappa Delta, a member of the Beta Chi chapter out of UNC-Chapel Hill. So, reading Secret Sisters felt a bit like returning to my pledge year at Carolina. Reading Beth’s struggles with owning her space within the male dominated physician progr
The Book Maven
Aug 03, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: read-in-2017
In a fictional Midwestern college in the 1880s, a group of female students in "nontraditional" (i.e., not divinity, domestic sciences, or secretarial degrees) courses of study have become weary of the bullying and harassment they receive from their professors, the scorn heaped upon them by their male counterparts, and the isolation from other females like themselves. In desperation, four very different women--Katherine, Mary, Lily, and Beth--secretly form a society to provide sisterhood and supp ...more
Thank you to GoodReads and Harper Collins for an ARC to review.

Colleges in the US went coed as early as the 1830's but as The Secret Sisters depicts, even in the 1880's, female college students still found the path to higher education fraught with discrimination. Beth Carrington dares to pursue a medical degree at Whitsitt College. As the only female student in the physician’s program, she often finds herself singled out by her professors with disparaging comments about the strain of an educati
Sep 10, 2017 rated it liked it
I perhaps have a different perspective than most reading this book. 25 years ago, I was one of a group of 14 women who founded a new, local (meaning not part of a bigger national organization) sorority on our college campus. We, too, looked for camaraderie, a place to be accepted on a campus that was at that time a good bit more than 50% male. Many of us were majoring in STEM fields that were even more lopsided in enrollment. But we weren't in danger of expulsion if our activity was discovered, ...more
Leslie aka StoreyBook Reviews
Nov 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
My sorority alumnae group read this book as one of our alumnae events and it sparked some interesting conversation since the author was initiated into our sorority we wanted to see what might have included that tied to our sorority. While it was a compilation of the founding of many sororities we found some ties which sparked other conversations.

I was a little sad that it didn't seem to focus more on the 4 women founding Beta Xi Beta. It did cover the trials they endured as women in the 1880's i
Jan 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
1892 and Beth Carrington is attending college to pursue a medical degree. She is the only female in the faculty and is constantly ridiculed by the professors for not choosing a career more fitting for a woman, like secretarial studies! She decides to establish a sorority like the men have and enlists two other students. She decides to ask one of the most influential students to ask for permission from the college Board. Grant Richardson becomes infatuated with her and begins to pursue her. She e ...more
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