Rainbow Girls

The Rainbow Apron, “. . . a sacred symbol that binds”

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Miniature Rainbow Apron. 1922-1931. Gift of Audrey E. Martin, 2008.026.1.

Freemasons wear aprons – some simple in design, some very ornate – as a symbol of connection to the practical origins of the order and a visual emblem of membership. The collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library contains more than four hundred aprons, one of the largest collections of aprons in the United States.

The International Order of the Rainbow for Girls was founded in Macalester, Oklahoma one hundred years ago, in 1922. As an auxiliary body of Freemasonry, the organization draws much of its symbolism and ritual from Masonic sources. A perfect example of this is the miniature apron that a Rainbow girl is given at her initiation and wears on her wrist for certain organizational events. The connection is made explicit in the initiation ceremony, where the new Rainbow Girl is told, “It is a sacred symbol that binds. To your father, if he were a Mason, the lambskin apron was sacred, and though you may never fully know its meaning, it will be dear to you because he loved it, and to him it was priceless.”

These scaled-down versions of Masonic aprons retain the same shape, flap, and ties as their inspiration. They are made of white lambskin, as with Masonic aprons. Like many Master Mason aprons produced in the twentieth century, these miniature aprons featured blank lines under the flap where the owner could, as on this example, write her name, address, and the assembly to which she belonged.

The apron shown here once belonged to Ruby Vandergrift Duncan Kramer (1911-2007). Ruby was born in Belmont, Massachusetts on April 28, 1911. Her parents, Oscar and Gertrude, were from Nova Scotia. Ruby was named after a Canadian aunt who died of illness at age 22. Her parents also had another daughter, named Pearl.

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Miniature Rainbow Apron. 1922-1931.  Gift of Audrey E. Martin, 2008.026.1.

Ruby was a member of Waltham Assembly No. 2 when she owned this miniature apron. Other examples of Rainbow aprons in the collection are from Massachusetts and Ohio and date from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1980s. Ruby’s apron dates from the early days of the Rainbow Girls in the 1920s.

Ruby lived at 34 Davis Road in Belmont for most of her life. She attended Boston University and graduated with a teaching degree in 1932. After teaching for one year, Ruby moved to a role as a clerk for the Belmont Electric Light Department, where she worked for forty-one years. She later married Howard Kramer, a Mason in Belmont Lodge from 1940 through 1970.

Ruby died in Belmont on October 11, 2007 at age 96. Her miniature apron survives as a tangible connection to her time in the International Order of the Rainbow for Girls in Massachusetts and to the Masonic fraternity.

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Further Reading:

 


The Electrified Signet

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Masonic Rainbow Girls Electrified Signet, 1930-1960. Unidentified maker, United States. Gift of Frank W. Thompson Lodge A.F. & A.M., 2012.073.1.

 I came across a four foot tall sign in the museum collection identified as an electrified signet when I was researching the Rainbow Girls, a Masonic youth group. I was curious about the name, since signets are most often associated with rings or personal seals that were used to authenticate  documents. I further investigated the history of these types of signs and found the term signet used primarily by the Order of the Eastern Star and the Rainbow Girls to describe their respective emblems.

Fraternal regalia companies like M.C. Lilley and C.E. Ward manufactured and sold electrified signs, or signets, like this one (pictured to the left), beginning in the late 1920s and early 1930s. These signs used to provide instruction during ritual ceremonies. The different colors and symbols in this particular Rainbow Girls sign could be lit up when the concepts were introduced or revealed during instruction.  In 2012, Frank W. Thompson Lodge A.F & A.M. in Bedford, Massachusetts, donated this Rainbow Girls signet to the Museum. The pictured hanging control box operated the sign.

For blog
(L) Masonic Order of the Eastern Star Signet, ca. 1938. Unidentified Maker, United States. Gift of Social Summit Lodge #50, Canaan, New Hampshire, 2011.013.2. (R) O.E.S. Supply Catalog, 1938. C.E. Ward Company, New London, Ohio. Gift of the Estate of John A. Waterhouse, A2011/37/89.

The Rainbow Girls sign is similar to this Order of the Eastern Star electrified signet (pictured to the right) donated to the Museum by Social Summit Lodge #50, in Canaan, New Hampshire, in 2011. 

A 1938 C.E. Ward catalog featured a similar Eastern Star signet for $143. In several different O.E.S. supply catalogs, the electrified signet is described as “a real addition to any chapter room” and “easily operated and unexcelled for rendering the Ritualistic work in the most beautiful and impressive manner.”

To learn more about the Rainbow Girls or Order of the Eastern Star visit our past blog posts here.

 

References:

Mark Tabbert, American Freemasons: Three Centuries of Building Communities. Lexington, Massachusetts: National Heritage Museum, 2005.

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The International Order of the Rainbow

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The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library recently acquired some items related to the International Order of the Rainbow for Girls, a group commonly known as the Rainbow Girls. The organization, founded in 1922 by Reverend W. Mark Sexson (1877-1953), was created for young women ages 11 to 20, whose fathers or family members were members of Masonic organizations. The group is now open to any girl interested in joining and offers a “Pledge” group for younger girls aged 8-10. The Rainbow Girls Headquarters have been located in McAlister, Oklahoma since 1951 and according to the Rainbow Girls organization, there are presently more than 850 assemblies that meet regularly around the world.

The Rainbow Girls organization was one of many Masonic-sponsored youth groups organized in the early 1920s to help teenage boys and girls develop “good citizenship and sound character.” Like Freemasons, the groups incorporated elements of ritual into their meetings and ceremonies. In 1922, Sexson, a 33°Mason, developed the Rainbow Girls ritual which focused on a series of seven lessons and “stations” representing the seven colors of the rainbow.

The most common symbols associated with the Rainbow Girls are a pot of gold, a rainbow, and and two hands clasped together with the initials “BFCL” (for bible, flag, constitution, and lambskin).  Lambskin is a reference to the lambskin aprons worn by Freemasons.

These attendance and officer pins are two examples of the paraphernalia in Rainbow Girl ceremony, meetings, and ritual. The 1950 photograph above shows a group of officers from Lexington Assembly #37 at Simon W. Robinson Masonic Lodge in Lexington, Massachusetts.

2016_040_11DI6IMG_1490 copyWe are actively collecting Rainbow Girls items. Do you or any family members have Rainbow Girls items, photographs, or ephemera? We would love to hear from you! Please contact Ymelda Rivera Laxton, Assistant Curator at ylaxton[@]srmml.org.

Captions:

Rainbow Girls attendance pin, 1980-1985, unidentified maker, United States, Gift of Beth McSweeney, 2016.040.11.

Rainbow Girls Worthy Advisor pin, 1983, unidentified maker, United States, Gift of Beth McSweeney, 2016.040.9

Reference:

Margaret Kendrick, Our place in time: 75 years of history: International Order of the Rainbow for Girls, McAlester, Oklahoma: International Order of the Rainbow for Girls, 1998.

 

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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