Independent Order of Odd Fellows
To Improve and Elevate the Character of Humans
In 17th Century England, lawless and desperate people faced a lot of challenges. Medicine was crude and primitive. Life expectancy was 45 to 50. A lot of sickness, orphaned kids, widows and many who could not afford to pay a decent burial for the dead.
Ordinary people from different trades and walks of life found it necessary to group together as brothers and sisters and contribute some of their hard-earned wages to a common fund which they could use for unfortunate times such as sickness, losing a job and even death. They would work together to help each other and the unfortunate families back on their feet, whether it was rebuilding a barn that burned or putting in new crops after a devastating season.
Such altruistic and friendly society became known as "Odd Fellows" because it was odd to find people organized for the purpose of giving aid to those in need and pursuing projects to benefit all humankind. It was believed that they were "an odd bunch of fellows" who would behave in such a selfless and seemingly impractical fashion. Odd Fellows are also known as "The Three Link Fraternity" which stands for Friendship, Love & Truth.
The Independent Order of Odd Fellows was founded on the North American Continent in Baltimore, Maryland, on April 26, 1819 when Thomas Wildey and four members of the Order from England instituted Washington Lodge No. 1. This lodge received its charter from Manchester Unity of Odd Fellows in England. At that time, the city was suffering both a yellow fever epidemic and mass unemployment so they dedicated the organization to "Visit the sick, relieve the distress, bury the dead and educate the orphans."
Odd Fellowship became the 1st national fraternity to include both men and women when it adopted the Rebekah Degree on September 20, 1851. This degree was written by the Honorable Schuyler Colfax who was Vice President of the United States during the period 1868-1873. Odd Fellows and Rebekahs were also the first fraternal organization to establish homes for our senior members and for orphaned children.
Today, Odd Fellows & Rebekahs continue to exist with nearly 10,000 lodges in approximately 26 countries consisting of men and women who unite together for mutual aid and conviviality, providing social and practical support for each other and their communities. We have come a long way and there is still more to be done. Working together to achieve these goals and help our fellow human beings create a bond that cannot be described – a brotherhood and sisterhood of benevolence that can only be felt as an active participant. Working together, we can really help make a difference!