Fraternal order

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A fraternal order is a fraternity organised as an order, with traits alluding to religious, chivalric or pseudo-chivalric orders, guilds, or secret societies. Contemporary fraternal orders typically have secular purposes, including social, cultural and mutually beneficial or charitable aims. [1] Many friendly societies, benefit societies and mutual organisations take the form of a fraternal order.


Fraternal societies are often divided geographically into units called lodges or provinces. They sometimes involve a system of awards, medals, decorations, styles, degrees, offices, orders, or other distinctions, often associated with regalia, insignia, initiation and other rituals, secret greetings, signs, passwords, oaths, and more or less elaborate symbolism, as in chivalric orders.


The Freemasons and Odd Fellows emerged in the 18th century in the United Kingdom and the United States. Other examples, which emerged later, include the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, the Independent Order of Foresters and the Loyal Order of Moose. Some may have ethnic or religious affiliations, such as Ancient Order of Hibernians or Order of Alhambra for Irish Catholics, or the Orange Order for Irish Protestants. Some orders have a clear political agenda, sometimes radical or militant - for example, the Nativist and Anti-Catholic Order of the Star Spangled Banner and Order of United Americans, active in the 1840s US. Some are associated with professions, such as the Fraternal Order of Police, while yet others are focused on academic traditions. [2] [3] [4]

In the more social type, each lodge is generally responsible for its own affairs, but it is often affiliated to an order such as the Independent Order of Odd Fellows or the Independent Order of Foresters. There are typically reciprocal agreements between lodges within an order, so that if members move to other cities or countries, they can join a new lodge without an initiation period.

The ceremonies are fairly uniform throughout an order. Occasionally, a lodge might change the order that it is affiliated to, two orders might merge, or a group of lodges will break away from an order and form a new one. For example, the Independent Order of Foresters was set up in 1874 when it separated from the Ancient Order of Foresters Foresters Friendly Society, which itself was formed from the Royal Foresters Society in 1834.

Consequently, the histories of some fraternal orders and friendly societies are difficult to follow. Often there are different, unrelated organisations with similar names.

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The Independent Order of Foresters (IOF) is a fraternal organization, now based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and operating under the brand name Foresters Financial.

Friendly society

A friendly society is a mutual association for the purposes of insurance, pensions, savings or cooperative banking. It is a mutual organization or benefit society composed of a body of people who join together for a common financial or social purpose. Before modern insurance and the welfare state, friendly societies provided financial and social services to individuals, often according to their religious, political, or trade affiliations. These societies are still widespread in many parts of the developing world, where they are referred to as ROSCAs, ASCAs, burial societies, chit funds, etc.

Independent Order of Rechabites

The Independent Order of Rechabites (IOR), also known as the Sons and Daughters of Rechab, is a fraternal organisation and friendly society founded in England in 1835 as part of the wider temperance movement to promote total abstinence from alcoholic beverages. Always well connected in upper society and involved in financial matters, it gradually transformed into a financial institution which still exists, and still promotes abstinence. The Order has been active in Australia from 1843, promoting temperance and as a benefit society. A branch was established in the United States in 1842, and also flourished for a time. In the United Kingdom, the Order trades under the name of Healthy Investment.

The Knights of Honor, was a fraternal order and secret society in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th century. The Knights were one of the most successful fraternal beneficiary societies of its time.

Odd Fellows Fraternal service movement

Odd Fellows, or Oddfellows, also Odd Fellowship or Oddfellowship, is an international fraternity consisting of lodges first documented in 1730 in London. The first known lodge was called Loyal Aristarcus Lodge No. 9, suggesting there were earlier ones in the 18th century. Notwithstanding, convivial meetings were held "in much revelry and, often as not, the calling of the Watch to restore order." Names of several British pubs today suggest past Odd Fellows affiliations. In the mid-18th century, following the Jacobite risings, the fraternity split into the rivaling Order of Patriotic Oddfellows in southern England, favouring William III of England, and the Ancient Order of Oddfellows in northern England and Scotland, favouring the House of Stuart.

Independent Order of Oddfellows Manchester Unity fraternal order founded in Manchester

The Independent Order of Oddfellows Manchester Unity Friendly Society Limited, also called the Manchester Unity of Oddfellows; trading as The Oddfellows, is a fraternal order founded in Manchester in 1810.

Benefit society an organizational or voluntary association, formed to provide mutual aid, benefit, or insurance for relief from sundry difficulties

A benefit society, fraternal benefit society or fraternal benefit order is a society, an organization or a voluntary association formed to provide mutual aid, benefit, for instance insurance for relief from sundry difficulties. Such organizations may be formally organized with charters and established customs, or may arise ad hoc to meet unique needs of a particular time and place. Many major financial institutions existing today, particularly some insurance companies, mutual savings banks, and credit unions, trace their origins back to benefit societies, as can many modern fraternal organizations and fraternal orders which are now viewed as being primarily social; the modern legal system essentially requires all such organizations of appreciable size to incorporate as one of these forms or another to continue to exist on an ongoing basis.

The Improved Order of Heptasophs was a fraternal order in the United States that existed from 1878-1917. It was distinguished from its parent organization, the Order of Heptasophs in that its main focus was on insurance.

Order of Free Gardeners

The Order of Free Gardeners is a fraternal society that was founded in Scotland in the middle of the 17th century and later spread to England and Ireland. Like numerous other friendly societies of the time, its principal aim was the sharing of secret knowledge linked to the profession and mutual aid. In the 19th century, its activities of mutual insurance became predominant. By the end of the 20th century, it had become almost entirely extinct.

Fraternity brotherhood

A fraternity or fraternal organization is an organization, society, club or fraternal order traditionally of men associated together for various religious or secular aims. Fraternity in the Western concept developed in the Christian context, notably with the religious orders in the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages. The concept was eventually further extended with medieval confraternities and guilds. In the early modern era, these were followed by fraternal orders such as freemasons and odd fellows, along with gentlemen's clubs, student fraternities, and fraternal service organizations. Members are occasionally referred to as a brother or – usually in religious context – Frater or Friar.

Ancient Order of United Workmen

The Ancient Order of United Workmen (AOUW) was a fraternal organization in the United States and Canada, providing mutual social and financial support after the American Civil War. It was the first of the "fraternal benefit societies", organizations that would offer insurance as well as sickness, accident, death and burial policies.

There have been a number of interlocking fraternal orders known as the beavers. The Fraternal Order of Beavers was created in 1911. The relationships between these and the Beavers Reserve Fund Fraternity, Beavers National Mutual Benefit and the National Mutual Benefit is complex. The North American Order of the Beaver was founded in 1990.

The American Fraternal Alliance (AFA) is an umbrella group of fraternal orders in the United States. It was founded as the National Fraternal Congress of America in 1913, in Chicago and adopted its current name in 2011.

The Grand United Order of Odd Fellows, American Jurisdiction is a jurisdiction of the Grand United Order of Oddfellows in the United States, Jamaica, Canada, South America, and other locations. Since its founding in 1843, its membership has principally included African Americans, due to black people being discriminated against, as was the norm in fraternal orders in America during the 1700—1800s.

Grand United Order of Oddfellows Friendly Society (GUOOFS) is an odd fellows grand lodge founded in 1798 and based in Manchester, United Kingdom.

Fraternities and sororities, or Greek letter organizations (GLOs), are social organizations at colleges and universities. A form of the social fraternity, they are prominent in the United States, Canada, and the Philippines, with much smaller numbers existing in France and elsewhere. Similar organizations exist in other countries as well, including the Studentenverbindungen of German-speaking countries or the Goliardia in Italy.

The Golden Age of Fraternalism is a term referring to a period when membership in the fraternal societies in the United States grew at a very rapid pace in the latter third of the 19th century and continuing into the first part of the 20th. At its peak, it was suggested that as much as 40% of the adult population held membership in at least one fraternal order.


  2. "Adventure in Friendship: A History of The National Panhellenic Conference" (PDF). National Panhellenic Conference. National Panhellenic Conference. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 28, 2013. Retrieved November 23, 2016.
  3. "Fraternity Apparel". Archived from the original on November 23, 2016. Retrieved November 23, 2016.
  4. Stevens, Albert C. (1907). Cyclopedia of Fraternities: A Compilation of Existing Authentic Information and the Results of Original Investigation as to the Origin, Derivation, Founders, Development, Aims, Emblems, Character, and Personnel of More Than Six Hundred Secret Societies in the United States. E. B. Treat and Company.