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Rainbow Girls and the Pledge of Allegiance in 1943

Pledge of Allegiance noteWhile cataloging a Rainbow Girls ritual from 1939 to add to the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library's collection, I was struck by an "Important Notice" (pictured at left) pasted inside the front cover. William Perry Freeman, Supreme Worthy Advisor of the Order of the Rainbow for Girls issued an edict on February 20, 1943, "changing the instructions relative to the proper salute to the American Flag." Freeman's edict followed on the heels of a U.S. Congressional amendation of the Flag Code [pdf] on December 22, 1942 that changed the way Americans saluted the flag.

Francis Bellamy wrote the Pledge of Allegiance, which was first published in the children's magazine The Youth's Companion in 1892. The original pledge simply read: "I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all" and was recited using a salute often called the "Bellamy salute" in tribute to the Pledge's author.

Children - the original audience for the Pledge of Allegiance - were instructed: "at the words 'to my Flag,' the right hand is extended gracefully, palm upward, toward the Flag, and remains in this gesture till the end of the affirmation; whereupon all hands immediately drop to the side." For decades, this is how Americans, including those in fraternal youth organizations, saluted when reciting the Pledge.

By the 1920s and 1930s, Italian Fascists and German Nazis had adopted salutes very similar in form to the "Bellamy salute." On December 22, 1942, Congress passed Public Law 77-829, containing amendments to the Flag Code, including Section 7, which replaced the Bellamy salute with the right-hand-over-heart salute familiar to Americans today. Americans and American organizations, including civic, patriotic, and fraternal organizations, quickly followed suit, as the amended Rainbow Girl ritual pictured above shows.

Caption:

W. Mark Sexson. Ritual: Order of the Rainbow for Girls. McAlester, Oklahoma: Supreme Assembly, 1939.
Call number: 84 .R154 S518 1939 c.2
Gift of Virginia Hicks Mitchell

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