The Odd Fellows is one of the oldest and largest non-political, non-sectarian fraternal and service organizations in the world. Because it existed very long ago 'mystery of long-past ages enshrouds the origin of Odd Fellowship" and that the exact date of its first founding is still being researched by historians. Members in the United Kingdom trace its roots back to the Trade Guilds of the 12th and 13th centuries.
There are many theories about how it first started and got its name but the generally accepted belief is that it emerged in England when a group of working class men who fell outside the established system of trade guilds banded together to form their own labor association. At the time of industrialization in England, 'Fellows' from various 'Odd' trades gathered together to form a fraternity to protect and care for their members and communities at a time when there was no welfare state, trade unions and National Health Insurance. They would work together to help each other and the unfortunate families back on their feet, whether it was rebuilding a barn that had burned, or putting in a new crop after a devastating season. Such helpers came to be known as "odd fellows," so named by the general population who thought they were "an odd bunch of fellows" who would behave in such a selfless and seemingly impractical fashion. This group then adopted the name.
By year 1700s, there were numerous Odd Fellows organizations in England. In 1810, various lodges in the Manchester area organized an "Independent Order of Odd Fellows" with the title "Manchester Unity". With their improved system, they were able to persuade other Odd Fellow lodges to join their Unity. They also chartered the Independent Order of Odd Fellows in America founded on April 26, 1819 by Thomas Wildey and four other members from England which then established many lodges around the world. On September 20, 1851, it became the first fraternal organization to accept women when it adopted the Rebekah Degree. Brother Schuyler Colfax, (Vice President of the United States from 1869 to 1873 under President Ulysses S. Grant), was the force behind the movement. Though the term sorority was not yet coined in this year, it may be considered that the Rebekah is the first and oldest sorority in the world. It was also the first fraternal organization to establish homes for the elderly and for orphaned children.
On September 20, 1865, the American Odd Fellows gave an account of the laying of the cornerstone of the Wildey Monument just after General Lee's surrender, just before the war ended. This event was really the "First Fraternization of the Blue and Gray". Men who had been engaged in the conflict, on both sides, marched side by side as brothers, wearing the regalia of the Brotherhood.
During the 'Golden Age of fraternalism', the Odd Fellows was the largest fraternal and service organization in the world. The world Almanac showed that it had over 3.4 Million active members in 1915. Although non-political and non-sectarian, it also claimed many notable members which included six U.S. Presidents such as Franklin Roosevelt and Warren Harding, as well as many Senators, Governors and community leaders. King Gustaf V of Sweden, King Olav V of Norway, and Winston Churchill were also identified as members. Due to its humanitarian contributions to communities in the United States, Canada and Europe, there are actually streets and locations named after the 'Odd Fellows' and 'I.O.O.F'.
It continues to exist up until today with about 10, 000 lodges in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Belize, Canada, Chile, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Poland, Philippines, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States of America, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Internationally, it is involved in various charitable causes such as their Educational Foundation which gives scholarships annually, Arthritis Foundation, Visual Eye Research Foundation at Wilmer Eye Institute, Living Legacy program which planted more than 8 Million trees already, the United Nations Pilgrimage of the Youth which sponsors High School students on a one-week trip to the United Nations, the S.O.S. Children's Village which houses orphans and aids victims in Cambodia, etc.
Sovereign Grand Lodge: http://www.ioof.org
Independent Order of Oddfellows (UK): http://www.oddfellows.co.uk
Odd Fellows European Portal of Websites:http://www.oddfellows.eu
Link to International Websites:http://www.ioofbc.org/international.htm
Pedro P. Dollar:.
Por Cuba, con Dios y la Masoneria
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