Joy Callaway: Secret Sisters

We welcome Joy Callaway back to The Country Bookshop for Secret Sisters!

Love, friendship, and women’s rights are on the line in SECRET SISTERS, a heartwarming and ultimately inspiring narrative of the founding of the country’s first sororities. Written by the master of historical fiction behind The Fifth Avenue Artists SocietyJoy Callaway, this thoroughly entertaining tale of the battle for camaraderie and respect in the early days of the women’s suffrage movement is more relevant and resonant than ever. With groundbreaking historical events like the Women’s March on Washington demonstrating that feminism is alive and fighting more than a century after the characters of SECRET SISTERS began their own struggle for equality, this novel is as timely as it is enjoyable, and is sure to engross readers from the very first page.


It’s 1881, and the ambitious women of Whitsitt College in Illinois are ostracized by their male and female peers alike for their non-traditional career aspirations. In search of companionship and commiseration, sophomore medical student Beth Carrington and her friends form a society that they call Beta Xi Beta, where they can socialize as well as express their frustrations with staff and students who refuse to take them seriously. But even this puts the women in danger—secret societies are expressly forbidden, and if anyone discovered their meetings they would surely be expelled.


Beth knows the only way to protect herself and her friends is to have the society officially recognized by the college. She turns to the most powerful student on campus for help: Grant Richardson, president of the college’s only existing fraternity, Iota Gamma, and scion of an important Whitsitt family. Though his staunch traditional values put him at odds with Beth’s ambitions, Grant finds himself entranced by her, and arranges a meeting with the board. But when that meeting goes horribly awry, Beth’s long-time best friend and Iota Gamma member Will Buchanan accuses Grant of sabotage. Heartbroken and reeling, Beth doesn’t know who to trust—except the women who have become her sisters, the girls of Beta Xi Beta. With their support, Beth is ready to fight even harder for her degree and her sisterhood, risking everything in order to make history.


An Alpha Xi Delta for a few years herself, Callaway was always fascinated by the origins of sorority life. When a friend’s comments reignited that interest, Callaway dove headfirst into the exhaustive primary source research that make Whitsitt College, Beta Xi Beta, and the fictional trailblazers who started it come alive. Drawing inspiration from the true story of the founding of the first sororities as well as historical figures such as Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell—whose struggle as the first female doctor in the United States serves as inspiration for Beth within the novel—Callaway crafts a world that is both intensely realistic and deeply personal. With SECRET SISTERS, she illuminates the legacy created by a pioneering group of young women whose story is not often told outside the boundaries of campus Greek Life, but has helped pave the way for generations of women ever since. 


Joy Callaway lives in Charlotte, NC with her family. She is also the author of The Fifth Avenue Artists Society.

Event date: 
Monday, July 31, 2017 - 5:00pm to 6:00pm
Event address: 
140 NW Broad Street
Southern Pines, NC 28387
Secret Sisters Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062391643
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper Paperbacks - July 11th, 2017

From the author of The Fifth Avenue Artists Society comes this unforgettable historical novel based on the founding of the country's first sororities.

The Fifth Avenue Artists Society Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062391612
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper Paperbacks - May 31st, 2016

The Bronx, 1891. Virginia Loftin, the boldest of four artistic sisters in a family living in genteel poverty, knows what she wants most: to become a celebrated novelist despite her gender, and to marry Charlie, the boy next door and her first love.