Who were the Independent Odd Ladies?
September 06, 2018
Perhaps you have heard of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows or the Daughters of Rebekah, but are you familiar with the United Order of Independent Odd Ladies?
In 1845, a group of women in Boston, Massachusetts, founded the United Order of Independent Odd Ladies, a mutual aid and benefit society. The women were interested in the laws and principles of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows but were unable to join as equals. They created their own order, six years before the Odd Fellows female auxiliary group, the Daughters of Rebekah, was formed. The Museum recently acquired a "redwork” cotton album quilt embroidered with emblems and names related to the Independent Odd Ladies. "Redwork" describes a a quilting style with red embroidery on a white back ground, popular in the 1910s.The quilt includes over fifty lodge names from throughout the state of Massachusetts. Some of the symbols on the quilt squares, including a cross and crown, scales, a hand and heart, and sheaves of wheat, are similar to emblems in Freemasonry and the Odd Fellows. Several of the lodge names feature establishment dates and the years 1914 or 1915, helping to date the quilt to about 1915.
According to a 1922 Boston directory, the Independent Odd ladies held their annual and semi-annual meetings at the local Elks and Odd Fellows lodges in town. Officer titles and roles included Supreme Lady, Supreme Secretary, Lady Governess, and Vice Lady Governess.
It is currently unclear when the order stopped meeting, when the lodges closed, or if the IOL spread beyond Massachusetts and New Hampshire.The IOL is mentioned in local newspaper articles and directories through the 1950s. Read our previous blog post about Independent Odd Ladies ritual guides and minute books in the Library & Archives collection.
Do you have any items or information related to this intriguing but relatively unknown group? Let us know in the comments section below.