Florence Flieler: Grand Chief of the Pythian Sisters
January 18, 2011
In the spring of 2010, we were offered by a manuscript dealer in Canada, the personal diary of Mrs. Florence M. Flieler. But who was Mrs. Flieler? Why would we collect her diary?
Florence was born in Kansas in about 1885. She moved to Oakland, California in the 1920s according to the United States Federal Census. At this point she was married to Henry R. Flieler, an accountant in a bank, and lived in a household with his parents, Richard and Catherine. Florence was about 35 years old at this time.
Florence's great passion was participating in the Pythian Sisters. On May 22, 1925, Florence was installed as Grand Chief of the Pythian Sisters of California. Her diary (as seen above) shows this enthusiasm in her description her first five months in office after her installation. The diary includes descriptions of social and official visits with other Pythian Sisters in various towns in California including Sacramento, Chico, Arcata, Ferndale,Redding,and Eureka. Florence comments candidly in her diary, noting, for example, when ritual work was done well and when it was not. She usually stayed with other Sisters in the order when traveling.
But who are the Pythian Sisters?
The Pythian Sisters is the female counterpart to the Knights of Pythias. This fraternal organization is similar to Order of the Eastern Star and the Rebekah Assembly in its relationship to its male organizations. In 1888, the Supreme Lodge of the Knights of Pythias approved Joseph Addison Hill's ritual for a women's order. Hill was the primary organizer of the Pythian Sisters in Warsaw, Indiana. Another group of Pythian Sisters from New Hampshire, with different ritual, merged with Hill's group in 1907. In the 1920s Florence Flieler would have been using and inspecting Hill's ritual in various temples in the Oakland area.
Like Order of Eastern Star and the Rebekah Assembly, a woman had to be the wife, sister, half-sister, sister-in-law, daughter, mother, stepmother, or mother-in-law, or grandmother of a Pythian Knight in good standing. Henry Flieler, or some other male relative, must have been a member of the Knights of Pythias, which would have made Florence eligible to join the Pythian Sisters. It is quite possible that the answer to this question lies waiting to be found in Florence Flieler's diary.
Diary of Florence M. Flieler, 1925-1926. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, A2010/9/1.