CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) — Secret societies are things that often excite the imagination of those on the outside of their clandestine meetings, and this mysterious West Virginia University (WVU) women’s society knows how to make an impression.

Founded on November 28, 1908, by 13 WVU students, the Rejetos Jichancas (RJ), sometimes spelled Retijos Chicancas, was a secretive women’s group that existed at WVU until 1929. Outside of annual yearbook entries, little was known about the group until around 1989 when researchers with the WVU Women’s Studies Center, now known as the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, began looking into the history of the group as part of its Women’s Centenary Project, which explored women’s history at WVU after their initial entry to the school in 1889.

Auxiliary pieces of information filled in the edges of the story, but the core pieces of the puzzle came in the form of interviews with two former members who were a part of the organization during its later years.

The RJs supposedly looked to an old Spanish gypsy dialect called Zincali for their naming precedent, with words so secret they never mentioned them among themselves. The name “Rejetos Jichancas” is believed to translate to “Merry Gypsies (Women).” Their chosen colors were lalo (purple), butacole (yellow) and bardroy (green). Their club flower was pink and called a brojuchi. They would even refer to fellow members as calli (Gypsy Women). Their organization’s symbol, which can be seen in some of their group photos, is said to be a cacabi, or kettle. Their entries in each year’s Monticola also reference something called chuajani (sorceress or witch) followed by a series of cryptic symbols with no known translation.

Members were selected by vote from three sororities: Kappa Kappa Gamma, Chi Omega and Alpha Xi Delta. These chosen would often be well-regarded students, and being selected to join the RJs was considered an honor. Their initiation involved them wearing a costume and mask to classes the next day.

One of WVU’s first female faculty members, Grace Martin Snee (Courtesy of West Virginia & Regional History Center, WVU Libraries)

One notable faculty RJ affiliate was Grace Martin Snee, a WVU music teacher. According to the former members’ accounts, aside from occasional meetings, group members would also gather at Snee’s Cheat Lake cottage for a fun annual spring garden party.

As for the mysterious Monticola photographs, the former members said that the costumes and poses were just for fun.

The interviewer concluded that while the group ended its life as a social club, it may have had a more noble purpose at its inception. Many early members were involved with feminist organizations and even the RJ colors — purple, yellow and green — are reminiscent of the early suffrage movement.

The last known trace of the RJs is their entry in the 1929 Monticola yearbook.

The fascination with the Rejetos Jichancas didn’t stop at just research though. The group was re-founded in 1989 on the same day the original organization was founded. Described as a support group for women on campus, the new RJs would often hold meetings at the Patterson Drive Eat-N-Park in Morgantown. They supposedly also had the support of a previous RJ member whose granddaughter had joined the new group. However, the new RJs disbanded sometime after 1991.