Continuing our celebration of the centennial of women’s suffrage in the United States, here we feature another object from the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library representing women’s involvement in fraternalism: a quilt made by members of the Daughters of Rebekah in the Temple Hill, Illinois, area.
The Daughters of Rebekah is a women’s group associated with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.). Commonly known as the Rebekahs (and officially as the International Association of Rebekah Assemblies), this group was founded in 1851, making it the first women’s auxiliary connected to any American fraternal order. Its name honors the biblical character who offered hospitality to a humble stranger. When it was established, the group’s stated objectives were to “aid in the establishment and maintenance of Homes for aged and indigent Odd Fellows and their wives… [and the] care, education, and support of orphans of deceased Odd Fellows and deceased sisters of the Rebekah degree” as well as to cultivate social relations among these groups.
The quilt shown here, possibly made as a fundraiser by Rebekahs living in the Temple Hill, Illinois, area, was pieced by hand and machine. Measuring 85 by 64 inches, it is rendered in the symbolic colors of the Rebekahs, pink and light green. Like many quilts associated with fraternal groups, this one is replete with symbols. Many of these—such as the sword and scales, open bible, and coffin and scythe—are used in both Odd Fellowship and Freemasonry. At the quilt’s lower center, under a 48-star American flag and a panel bearing the I.O.O.F. three-link chain emblem, is a pink square dedicated to symbols used by the Rebekahs. It features the four main emblems of that order: the beehive, to remind members of the sweet rewards of industry and coordinated effort; the dove, to teach them to promote “peace on earth and good will to men”; the lily, to nudge members toward purity of thought and action; and finally, the moon and seven stars, to represent order in the universe and thus in one’s duties, as well as to evoke the idea of reflecting the glory of the Supreme Being as the moon and stars reflect the sun’s light in the darkness.
This quilt was likely made between 1924 and 1940, a period when the Odd Fellows and Rebekahs enjoyed popularity. Over the prior seven or so decades, Rebekahs had flourished, counting numerous first ladies and pioneering female civic leaders among their membership. These included Arizona state representative Vernettie O. Ivy (1876-1967); Warrenton, Oregon, mayor Clara C. Munson (1861-1938); and first lady Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962). Possibly due in part to the increased social buttresses of the New Deal, membership in such mutual aid societies began to decline precipitously by the mid-twentieth century. Today, Rebekah lodges continue to be active in community and charitable projects, with a creed to "live peaceably, do good unto all" and obey the Golden Rule.
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Lynne Adele and Bruce Lee Webb. As Above, So Below: Art of the American Fraternal Society, 1850-1930. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2015.
Max Binheim, ed. Women of the West: A Series of Biographical Sketches of Living Eminent Women in the Eleven Western States of the United States of America. Los Angeles, CA: Publishers Press, 1928 edition, https://archive.org/details/womenofwestserie00binh (accessed Aug 25, 2020).
George and J.C. Herbert Emery. A Young Man's Benefit: The Independent Order of Odd Fellows and Sickness Insurance in the United States and Canada, 1860-1929. Montreal and Kingston, Canada: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1999.
Alvin J. Schmidt. Fraternal Organizations (The Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Institutions). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1980.
Membership manual of the Sovereign Grand Lodge Office and Grand Lodge of Rebekah Assembly of CA, http://www.ioofmembership.org/Membership%20Manual.htm (accessed August 12, 2020).