From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State: Fraternal Societies and Social Services, 1890-1967

By David T. Beito | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR

The Child City

ivienne Cottingham began kindergarten in 1920, but her experience did not fit the norm. Her school was Mooseheart, the national orphanage of a fraternal society. The Loyal Order of Moose had es- V tablished this institution to clothe, feed, and educate the children of deceased members. 1

Vivienne's childhood had been punctuated by tragedy. She was born in Ponca City, Oklahoma, where her father, a member of a Moose lodge, worked in the oil fields. When Vivienne was four, her mother abandoned the family. Her grandmother took in the children while her father provided financial support. The family descended into a financial crisis, however, when he died in a car accident on New Year's Day 1919. 2

Help came when her grandmother discovered that Vivienne was eligible for Mooseheart. The lodge made all the arrangements to send her to Illinois. Vivienne decided to make the most of the situation and excelled in activities such as Camp Fire Girls and basketball. As a teenager she earned money typing for her teachers. Thirteen years after she had arrived, Vivienne graduated with a high school diploma and a vocational degree. 3

Thousands of children had similar stories. All manner of groups operated orphanages, including religious orders, immigrant organizations, and county and state governments. The orphanage population increased from 50,579 in 1880 to an all-time high of 142,971 in 1923. Fraternal societies founded seventy-one orphanages between 1890 and 1922, almost all without governmental subsidy. The array of sponsors included the IOF, the Knights of Pythias, B'nai B'rith, and the Sons of Italy. But two societies stood out: the IOOF and the Masons. Between them they operated sixty-four orphanages in 1933, accounting for more than half of the 9,409 children in fraternal orphanages. 4

The origins of Mooseheart can be traced to 1910. That year the national convention of the Loyal Order of Moose authorized the building of a “Moose Na

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