The ladies branch of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows came
into existence on September 20, 1851, in Baltimore, Maryland, with the adoption
of the Rebekah
Degree by the Grand Lodge of the United States (Sovereign
Grand Lodge). Known then
as the Daughters of Rebekah, this “Honorary Degree” was conferred upon the
wives and daughters of Odd Fellows during special meetings.
These were humble beginnings for the Rebekahs and it was soon apparent that this honorary degree was inadequate. If the women were to be successful in carrying out the principals of Odd Fellowship, they needed a better foundation. Finally, in 1868 the Grand Lodge of the United States passed a resolution authorizing the institution of Rebekah Degree Lodges by Grand Lodge bodies. Although the Brothers were to oversee the meetings, the women had the right to elect their own officers and attend to their own affairs. The Rebekahs now had the tools necessary to organize and refine the structure of their lodges. Bloomfield Rebekah Lodge #1 holds the honored position of being the first Rebekah lodge of the world. It was instituted on October 22, 1868, at Bloomfield, Iowa.
During the next three decades, many changes and
improvements were made as the Rebekahs fine-tuned their status and inched their
way towards independence. With
careful cultivating and nurturing, the lodges increased in number and quickly
spread across the country and around the world.
By the late 1800’s they had found their way to the Idaho Territory.
In 1885, Grand Master A. L. Simondi had the privilege of
instituting the first Rebekah Degree Lodge in the Idaho Territory, Alpha Rebekah
Lodge #1 at Lewiston, on June 16th.
Since then, the seeds of Friendship, Love, and Truth grew and prospered
in the sparsely populated Territory of Idaho.
By the time Idaho became a State in 1890, fifteen Rebekah
Degree Lodges had been instituted. As
the Rebekah Lodges increased in number, the need to organize on the state level
increased. A resolution from the Special Committee on the Rebekah
Degree, conveyed to the Grand Lodge, the need to formulate a State Convention
for the women. With the
support of the Brothers and the enthusiasm of the Sisters, the first Rebekah
Convention was held at Pocatello in October of 1892.
Two brothers and twelve sisters took their seats and Alwilda Smith from
Moscow was elected as the first President. This was the beginning of the Rebekah
Assembly of Idaho and a giant step for the Idaho Rebekahs. Each lodge was now
united under one legislative body, giving uniformity and equality to its
individual lodges. On October 17,
1894, Grand Master D. W. Figgins officially issued a Charter to the Rebekah
Assembly. Along with his signature,
the Charter bears the names of twenty-two Rebekah Lodges.
By the turn of the century, the Rebekahs had gained their sovereignty; now a full-fledged branch of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, working side by side with their Odd Fellow brothers bringing relief and aid to the suffering. Men were no longer a required part of their lodges, but were always welcomed, provided of course, they were members in good standing of a Rebekah Lodge. Even the name, Daughters of Rebekah, was more appropriately changed to Rebekahs. Idaho was home to forty Rebekah Lodges.
Idaho wasn’t alone in its quest for unity. Other states were also forming their assemblies and it was clear that organization was needed on a national level. In 1914 the Association of Rebekah Assemblies was organized. During the first year, Rebekah Assemblies from thirteen states had joined the Association, even though the Sovereign Grand Lodge did not give it official recognition until 1922. The Idaho Rebekah Assembly gladly accepted an invitation to join and sent their first representative, Sister Frances Crosson, in 1916. By 1952 every Rebekah Assembly in North America had joined and with the admittance of the Rebekah Assembly of Cuba in 1955, the Association of Rebekah Assemblies became the International Association of Rebekah Assemblies with Sister Margaret Watts of Primrose Rebekah Lodge #76, Twin Falls, Idaho, as President. Idaho had instituted 123 Rebekah Lodges.
Since its birth on September 20, 1851, the Rebekahs have endured and made their presence known throughout the world. Surviving both World Wars and the Great Depression they have inspired to spread the hands of Friendship, Love and Truth.