Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Royal Neighbors of America

At a local auction last year, two Society members were the lucky bidders on two badges for the Royal Neighbors of America, which they donated to the Museum.  Recently the Museum acquired a certificate of membership for Belle Vennard of Russellville, 1908 for this same organization. Thinking this was a men’s fraternal organization the female name confused the researchers. However a quick search on the internet cleared up the confusion. 

It was and still is a women’s organization.

(Ed Note: As usual on the internet, there are two different stories. One article says it began in 1888 and another says it beganin 1895.)

‘In 1888, Mrs. Marie Kirkland, Council Bluffs, IA, placed a notice in her town newspaper asking the wives of Modern Woodmen of America members to meet for a social get-together. Eight women responded and organized what was to become Royal Neighbors of America. Just a year later, the group reorganized as a social organization with a constitution, ritual, and articles of incorporation. The name Royal Neighbors of America was chosen by the women because they adhered to the belief, “For better is a neighbor that is near than a brother that is far.” (Proverbs 27:10). They intended to be that helpful neighbor, combining the Biblical “neighbor” with the word “royal” that signified their belief in the nobility of the work they would do. Initially, Royal Neighbors was a ladies' auxiliary to the Modern Woodmen of America, but dissolved its affiliation with that group in 1929.’

‘In 1895 women weren’t supposed to be educated, weren’t supposed to handle financial matters, weren’t considered worthy of financial protection, and weren’t even considered capable of voting for the government leaders who represented them. On March 21, 1895, nine women founded Royal Neighbors of America, a unique combination of business and volunteerism supporting women. The early members of the Society were ahead of their time. In addition to providing life insurance for women, they stood firmly behind the women’s suffrage movement. Royal Neighbors was also one of the first fraternal societies to insure children and recognize mortality studies establishing the fact that women live longer than men, and to reflect that difference in life insurance premiums.’

The date the organization started is not as important to us locally, as is the fact that there were at least two groups in Lawrence County—one in Russellville, and one in Sumner. Perhaps other communities in the county had similar groups that we have yet to discover. If you have any other information to provide, send an email to

Ladies:  Don't Forget the Last Lunch and Learn program of the 2015 Series on Wednesday, December 2 at 11:30 in the basement of the Lawrence County Library. Reservations can be made at The Finishing Touch in Lawrenceville, Jane's Beauty Salon in Bridgeport, or by sending a $15 check to PO Box 425, Lawrenceville, Il.  The program will feature the music of Irving Berlin by Rose Robeson and Sue Gerhart.  A delicious meal will be served after the program. 
November program


            Noted adventurer and travel writer Allen Johnson will be the featured speaker at the meeting of the Lawrence County Historical Society on Monday, November 23, 7:00 p.m. at the museum in Lawrenceville. 
            Johnson, a native of Lawrenceville, will present a program on the history of Lawrenceville High School, his alma mater, from its beginnings at Old Central on 12th Street, to its current new campus on James Street.
            Johnson is a graduate of the University of Illinois and Ohio State University, and served as a communications engineer with the U.S. Air Force.  Over the past 50 years, he has flown over 6,000,000 miles, visited 54 countries, and, among his exploits, chased polar bears across the Canadian Artic and jogged the Great Wall of China.  Johnson is the author of 23 travel and adventure books.

            Admission is free and the public is invited.