Women and Freemasonry

A Daughters of Rebekah Quilt

94_007T1Temple Hill Quilt, 1924-40. Members of the Temple Hill Daughters of Rebekah. Temple Hill, Illinois. Museum Purchase, 94.007.

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.

Do you have a question or observation related to women's involvement in fraternal groups? Let us know in the comments section below! We also invite you to join us on Facebook and check out our online exhibitions and online collections

References:

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).

 


The Order of the Eastern Star at the Chicago World’s Fair

On August 18th, 1920, the United States Congress ratified the 19th amendment, guaranteeing women the right to vote. Throughout August, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of this momentous occasion, Museum staff will highlight items from our collection related to women’s fraternal groups. Many of these groups offered not only a place of community for women but also a place to organize. A number of these groups were actively involved in the suffrage movement and had members who championed women's equality. We first feature this recently donated photograph from the 1893 Chicago World's Fair.

2020_008DS1 cropped
Order of Eastern Star Booth at Columbian Exposition, 1893. Lorraine J. Pitkin (1845-1922), Chicago, Illinois. Gift of Thomas Nelson, 2020.008. 

On May 1st, 1893, thousands of visitors streamed into the newly opened Columbian World Exposition at Jackson Park in Chicago, Illinois. This exposition, commonly referred to as the Chicago World’s Fair, celebrated the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ (1451-1506) arrival in the Americas in 1492. Organizers built over 200 new structures and pavilions that spanned over 600 acres in the South Side of Chicago, including a “Woman’s Building,” designed by architect Sophia Hayden (1868-1953). The structure, created to showcase women artisans and highlight women’s achievements, was managed by an all-female board. A number of female associations were featured in the building, including the Women's Christian Temperance Union, Order of the Eastern Star, and Ladies Catholic Benevolent Association. 

Board member Lorraine J. Pitkin (1845-1922), a women's activist and high-ranking member of the Order of the Eastern Star (OES), a Masonic women's auxiliary group, advocated for this Eastern Star exhibit (pictured at left) to be displayed in the Woman’s Building. The photograph shows various Eastern Star charts, signets, and banners from over nine of the organization's chapters in the Upper Midwest.

Pitkin also participated in the World’s Congress of Representative Women on behalf of OES. The Congress, a week-long conference managed and attended by women as part of the World's Fair, included a day of programming devoted to the Eastern Star on May 16, 1893. Sessions from that day included "The Value of the Eastern Star as a Factor in Giving Women a Knowledge of Legislative Matters"  and "Eastern Star and the Benefit it Has Been to Women as an Educational Organization." Pitkin later served on the Board of Directors of the World's Fair Fraternal Building Association held in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1902. This photograph will be featured in our upcoming Flickr album about women and fraternalism. Stay tuned!

Have a favorite item related to women's suffrage or fraternalism at the World's Fair? Let us know in the comments below!

 

References

May Wright Sewall, ed., The World's Congress of Representative Women... (Chicago, IL: Rand McNally, 1894), 68-72.

Maude Howe Elliott, ed., Art And Handicraft in the Woman's Building of the World's Columbian Exposition Chicago, 1893 (Chicago and New York: Rand, McNally & Company, 1894), 180-185.

 

 


Freemasonry and the Growth of Nursing during the Civil War

Research into this recent acquisition to the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library highlights the Fraternity’s efforts to support the Union through the creation of the Masonic Mission, an agency created and “managed wholly by Masons.”

A2018_146_001DS001Circular letter from W. H. Hadley of the Masonic Mission to Mosaic Lodge, September 20, 1864.

 

As many readers may know, the support and care of sick and wounded soldiers throughout the war was carried out by private relief agencies and not by the federal government. The most well-known of these private agencies was the United States Sanitary Commission, which was created by an act of federal legislation in 1861 and was responsible for the set-up, staffing, and management of almost all Union hospitals during the war.

However, as Union losses mounted in the early years of the Civil War, the Sanitary Commission found it more and more difficult to drum up the necessary support to meet the demand for female nurses by late 1862. As William Hobart Hadley, the author of this circular letter, a Mason, and an agent for the Sanitary Commission in the New England states, reported, anti-Republican sentiment permeated the areas he had canvassed for help. The hearts of people throughout the North had hardened to the fate of the Union by April 1863.

During this same period, another member of the Masonic family tree, Sarah P. Edson, a volunteer nurse, and possibly a holder of all the Adoptive Degrees, sought to address the growing need for nurses on the front lines. After her first effort to create a training school for women nurses met with opposition from the Sanitary Commission and the Surgeon General of the United States in a Senate committee, Edson sought the help of New York’s Freemasons. In response to Edson’s pleas, the “Army Nurses’ Association was formed . . . and commenced work under the auspices of the Masons” in the winter of 1862.

By the time of the Battle of the Wilderness (May 5-7, 1864), Union surgeons on the front lines requested that Edson, who had rushed to help at the front, send ten of her “nurses then receiving instruction as part of her class at Clinton Hall, New York.” The Masonic Mission was formed shortly after, and by the time of the Battle of the Crater (July 30, 1864), the agency worked in partnership with the Sanitary Commission, the Christian Commission, and other state and local agencies to help the Army create a “hospital tent city, which could care for twelve thousand patients.”

After a brief period of success, political clashes with the Sanitary Commission and the failure of its managers to pay its female nurses led to the demise of the Masonic Mission as a school for Army nurses. The Mission would refocus its efforts on aiding the North’s poor who were hit especially hard by the rising cost of coal for heating and flour. Sarah P. Edson’s ambitious plan to create an Army-based school for nursing would have to wait until Congress established the United States Army Nurse Corps in 1901, and the Navy followed suit in 1908.


Captions

Circular letter from W. H. Hadley of the Masonic Mission to Mosaic Lodge, September 20, 1864. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, MA 260.006.


References

Attie, Jeanie. 1998. Patriotic Toil: Northern Women and the American Civil War. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.

Brockett, L. P. and Mary C. Vaughan. 1867. “Mrs. Sarah P. Edson.” In Woman’s Work in the Civil War: A Record of Heroism, Patriotism and Patience, 440-447. Philadelphia: Zeigler, McCurdy & Co. Accessed: 5 February 2019. https://books.google.com/books?id=0aDhAAAAMAAJ

Carpenter, C. C. 1903. “William Hobart Hadley, 21, Waterford Vt.” In Biographical Catalogue of the Trustees, Teachers and Students of Phillips Academy, Andover, 1778-1830, 143. Andover, Mass.: Andover Press. Accessed: 5 February 2019.https://books.google.com/books?id=HbNBAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA143

Edson, Sarah P. 1865. “The Masonic Mission and the Five Points Mission.” New York Herald, January 9 1865. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030313/1865-01-09/ed-1/seq-2/#date1=1865&index=0&date2=1865

Frank, Linda C. 2012. “Our Famous Women, Part 1.” Auburnpub.com, March 11, 2012. Accessed: 5 February 2019. https://auburnpub.com/lifestyles/our-famous-women-part-i/article_33d1b54c-6b05-11e1-a597-0019bb2963f4.html

Mitchell, E. L. “Masonic Charities.” Masonic Monthly 2, no. 3 (January): 118-120. Accessed: 5 February 2019. https://archive.org/details/MasonicMonthlyVolII1864/page/n129

Morris, Rob. 1864. “The Masonic Mission.” The Voice of Masonry and Tidings from the Craft 2, no. 6 (June): 276-277. Accessed: 5 February 2019. https://books.google.com/books?id=zd0cAQAAMAAJ&dq="masonic%20mission" 1864&pg=PA276   

Oates, Stephen B. 1994. Woman of Valor: Clara Barton and the Civil War. New York: The Free Press.

Sarnecky, Mary T. 1999. A History of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Slotkin, Richard. 2009. No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater, 1864. New York: Random House.