Our Cotillion is a formal ball sponsored by the Boston Pearl Foundation, Inc. & Psi Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. where young women are introduced to society by their parents or guardians. It is the culmination of six months of educational, cultural, and community service activities that will enhance their lives.
The History of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Debutante Program
The Psi Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. has sponsored debutante programs in Boston for over 35 years. The first program was offered in 1973. Similar to its existing youth development programs, which provide education and positive growth development and mentoring, the current Debutante Program, sponsored in collaboration with The Boston Pearl Foundation, Inc., targets young women of color enrolled in grades 9 -12. In an era where images of women in various media and entertainment mediums are disturbingly negative, the Precious Pearls Debutante Program gives young minority women within the greater Boston area a positive self-image, role models and personal development activities that promote high moral and ethical standards. The six-month program culminates with a formal ball that allows the community to acknowledge and celebrate the efforts of the debutantes to mature into cultured, confident, principled and civic-minded women.
The History of the Debutante Season
The word, “debutante”, is derived from the French word, “debuter”, which means, “to lead off.” The debutante tradition, as we know it in the United States, has its roots in England. The idea that a girl should be presented to society stems from the time when a daughter of a marriageable age needed to find a husband of suitable and similar social standing. The daughters of the landed aristocracy, the lords and ladies of England married within a very small circle and often had a very large dowry that went with them. The court of the kings and queens of England is known as the court of St. James (“the Court”). It was the center of all power. Because of the weather and the requirements of the hunt, the Court was held in London from April until the end of July. During this time, the aristocracy came in from their country homes and opened their city houses and the social season commenced. After the Industrial Revolution, as the middle class began to make large sums of money, the aristocrats were anxious to make alliances with wealthy entrepreneurs. The middle-class daughters could be presented if they could find a sponsor from among the aristocracy. The Season started with the presentation to the Court during which the young lady bowed to the Queen, thus the name the St. James Bow. Parties followed this, each family giving their share. It was hoped that at the end of the season, a girl would have found a husband. The idea of the presentation of young women to society started in this country in 1748 when 59 colonial Philadelphia families held “Dancing Assemblies”, the forerunner to the Debutante Ball. The tradition continues today throughout the United States with the majority of balls being held from November through January.