Wikis > Friendly


The term “Friendly” is used to gather the most common ritual-based fraternal organization under one heading. It is a catch-all term to distinguish those fraternal orders that have charitable activities in consequence to their principles, as opposed to those with contractual obligations. Freemasonry is the first and foremost of all friendly societies with its first American lodges in the 1730s. The Odd Fellows and Knights of Pythias follow in size and strength. These three great fraternities all build orphanages, retirement homes, cared for the sick and widows, but never guaranteed such services as a right of membership. “Mutual Assessment” fraternal orders, such as the Tribe of Ben Hur or the Modern Woodmen of American also provided health and death benefits, but were in many cases, insurance corporations with local fraternal chapters. Friendly Societies are ritual-based organization who believed its ritual, principles, teaching and tenets would inspire its members to care for each other and would, thereby, naturally create charitable local, state and national funds and endeavors.

Friendly Societies are also distinguished from Ethnic Fraternal order, Religious and even Hereditary orders by the universality of their rituals and membership. Friendly Societies rituals are  based on the Bible, legendary medieval knights and heroes, ancient mythology, and even modern works of fiction. Rather than than perpetuating one ethnic, political, or racial point of view, or commemorating a specific historical event. Local Friendly Societies’ “lodges” contain members of diverse backgrounds and beliefs, and many charter local “lodges” for specific groups, such as German-speaking, Jewish, or by profession or trade.


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