Phi Theta Kappa traces its beginnings to a Society that originated with six charter members under the name of Kappa Phi Omicron at Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, in 1910. The Society continued to grow and in the spring of 1918 was one of many honorary groups in Missouri.
At a meeting of the presidents of the Missouri junior colleges for women in 1918, it was decided to organize a new honorary society, chapters of which would have a common character, stand, and similarity of organization.
The name Phi Theta Kappa was chosen, and the Society was incorporated in Missouri as a national organization. Founders modeled many aspects of the new Society after the prestigious senior college honorary society, Phi Beta Kappa.
The eight charter colleges of Phi Theta Kappa were Hardin, Stephens, Christian, Lindenwood, Cottey, Howard Payne, William Woods, and Central. The alpha chapter was established at Hardin College, but was later moved to Stephens College when Hardin College became a baccalaureate granting institution.
By 1926, Phi Theta Kappa expanded beyond the borders of Missouri and into coeducational institutions. And in 1929 the American Association of Community Colleges recognized Phi Theta Kappa as the official honor society for two-year colleges.