We have 115 Odd Fellows Lodges in California (not counting the jurisdictional Gene J. Bianchi Lodge). Of those 115 Lodges, there are 17 Lodges that have a unique distinction. These 17 Lodges are:

Diamond Springs #9 15 members
Suisun #78 32 members
Mountain Brow #82 95 members
Vacaville #83 85 members
Santa Crux #96 30 members
Scio #102 21 members
Coulterville #104 18 members
Evergreen #161 42 members
Saint Helena #167 59 members
Montezuma #172 55 members
Ventura #201 62 members
Santa Barbara #232 17 members
Lodi #259 124 members
Little Lake #277 14 members
Grafton #293 19 members
Spring Valley #316 46 members
San Fernando #365 22 members

These 17 Lodges have a combined membership, as of January 1, 2017, of 756. The unique feature about these 17 Lodges is that of their 756 members, 756 are men and 0 are women.

In the “old days” of Odd Fellowship, men joined the Odd Fellows Lodges and women joined the Rebekah Lodges. That changed at the turn of this Century. At that time, by a vote of the membership at Grand Lodge sessions, Odd Fellows Lodges in California were opened to female applicants. And the first women joined Odd Fellows Lodges in the years 2000 and 2001. So, it’s been about 18 years since membership in Odd Fellows Lodges opened to female applicants – that’s almost a full “generation” in sociological calculation. Yet, after all that time, why do 17 of our Lodges have not even one woman as a member?

Interestingly, a majority of these 17 Lodges stay very low-key, not even sending representatives to Grand Lodge Sessions. It’s almost as if they wish to be “out of sight, out of mind.” I have talked to members of some of these Lodges and have asked them the question as to why they have no female members. The answers have varied. In some cases, the members have been brutally frank: “If a woman joined this Lodge, I would leave.” Or, “It’s the one night of the month that I can get away from my wife.” Or, they have simply changed the subject and ignored the question. In one case, I am aware of members who tried to sponsor a well-respected woman as a member in the Lodge, and by a vote of the Lodge, a majority did not vote to admit her. In other cases, I have heard interesting “reasons” such as, “We don’t have any women in the Lodge because no woman has applied,” or “We have an active women’s club in this community and the women would rather join that.”

After 18 years, the “reasons” don’t wash. Frankly, it defies all reason to brlirbr that not one woman has applied in 18 years. But assuming for a moment that is true, then the men have turned the Lodge into a “Men’s Club” and de jure or de facto have hung out a virtual sign that says, “women are not welcomed.” That is not only a violation of the Odd Fellows Codes – which we have all taken an oath to follow – but it is just wrong at so many levels. At a purely pedestrian level, it is illogical to exclude half of our community’s population, particularly at a time when Lodge membership is shrinking. Look at it this way: Would we all not agree that it is intolerable and unacceptable to think that a Lodge would exclude a potential member because of the color of that person’s skin, or that person’s ethnic heritage, or that person’s religion? Is it not just as unacceptable for a Lodge to exclude a person because they don’t have a Y chromosome in their DNA?

A couple of generations ago, our society had policemen, and firemen, and mailmen. Today, we have police officers, and firefighters, and postal carriers. Odd Fellows had better catch up with the rest of modern American society or we may go down the “manhole” of history.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

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