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The Alpha Beta Zeta Chapter was chartered in January 1939 by nine distinguished, committed women. These dynamic ladies sought to foster the principles upon which Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. was founded in Newport News, Virginia. The charter members of Alpha Beta Zeta are:

Virgie Joyner Cobb

Rachel Watkins Cole

Rebecca Manley Green

Elizabeth Spivey Howell

Lillie Mae Johnson Marshburn

Gwendolyn Jordan Madgette

Catherine Sinclair

Irma B. Thompson

Bernice Hamlet Woodson

Alpha Beta Zeta initiated its first new members in the spring of 1939. This group included Soror Juanita Scott, who served the chapter faithfully for 69 years until her death in the fall of 2008.

From its earliest years, Alpha Beta Zeta Sorors have continuously focused on projects within four major themes: Community Service, Cultural Outreach Programs, Scholarships, and Recognition of Unsung Heroes.


Initiatives in the 1940s included an annual Baby Contest, end-of-year cookouts, and an Etiquette Program for young women that eventually grew into the Blue Revue Cotillion program. In 1947, Alpha Beta Zeta Sorors supported undergraduate students in chartering the Rho Alpha Chapter at Hampton University. Alpha Beta Zeta continues to serve as the sponsoring graduate chapter for Rho Alpha.


Zeta Phi Beta Sorority’s presence in the community officially expanded to include Hampton, Virginia in 1948. In the years that followed, Sorors worked diligently to establish a positive reputation for outstanding service to the Virginia peninsula. These activities included tutorial programs, the Stork’s Nest project, an annual Fashion Show fundraiser, cultural programs at area churches, and the adoption of John Marshall Elementary School. Alpha Beta Zeta also helped to charter two additional undergraduate chapters, Xi Lambda at William & Mary on April 10, 1982, and Phi Xi at Christopher Newport University in 1991.


Alpha Beta Zeta Chapter Sorors possess many talents and demonstrate leadership in their various professional and personal endeavors. Today, the chapter includes women who served Zeta in positions of leadership at the state, regional, and national level. This phenomenal chapter’s legacy continues to develop as more dynamic women choose to affiliate with Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. through the Alpha Beta Zeta Chapter of Newport News/Hampton, Virginia.

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