Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
Today – March 8 – is International Women’s Day, a day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, scientific, and political achievements of women. It seems like a poignantly appropriate day for this article.
Two decades ago, Odd Fellowship made a momentous (and long-overdue) decision to admit women as members of Odd Fellows Lodges. The fact that Odd Fellowship was the first fraternal order to admit women into a “separate but equal” entity called the Rebekahs was certainly ground-breaking, noteworthy and significant when it happened in the 19th Century – at the time, none of the hundreds of fraternal orders that existed admitted women.
But our fraternal order still needed to take another step – the step of opening Odd Fellows Lodge membership to women. And that penultimate event happened at the start of the 21st Century. The first women to become Odd Fellows joined Lodges in 2000 and 2001.
Odd Fellowship took yet another major and welcomed step toward true equality when, over the last two years, it adopted a non-discrimination statement, and required all Lodges to include that non-discrimination statement in the Lodge Bylaws. Odd Fellowship is committed to rejecting discrimination in its many forms – including discrimination based on gender.
Not only do these policies make sense for a country that believes all people are created equal, it makes practical sense for a fraternal order that has seen a significant membership decline over the past three generations. Why should membership be denied to 50% of our population?
So, now that we are in the Year 2020, the question must be asked: Why do we still have Odd Fellows Lodges that have no members, and have never had members, who are female?
It’s time. Frankly, it’s overdue. Odd Fellowship needs to take that final and ultimate step toward equality by ensuring that every Lodge of Odd Fellows admits women as members.
We have all heard the “reasons” and the “excuses” offered by the all-male Lodges. And these reasons and excuses might hold water for a year or two. But 20 years?
The most common reason or excuse that we hear is: “Women have not applied.” After 20 years, that “excuse” sounds shallow and contrived. There is little doubt that the members of that all-male Lodge could certainly have recruited and admitted women at some point over those two decades. The only conclusion that can be reached after 20 years is that the all male membership has made a conscious decision to keep women out, or has simply turned a collective blind eye to the problem. And that flies in the face of the express policies of our Order.
The all male Lodges should welcome women as members, not fear them. Lodges that have admitted women – and there are many of them – have not dried up and blown away. In fact, just the opposite. These are energetic and growing Lodges. My own Lodge – Davis #169 – has over 300 members and 43% of them are women. More importantly, women have held, and continue to hold, every position of significance in the Lodge, including Noble Grand, Vice Grand, Secretary, Financial Secretary, Treasurer, Trustee, Chaplain, Conductor and Warden. They have served with deliberation and distinction, and the Lodge is stronger for it.
On this International Women’s Day, Odd Fellowship should recommit itself to the goal of true equality.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California