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

By David T. Beito | Go to book overview

CHAPTER NINE

Our Dreams Have All Come True

rphanages and homes for the elderly were not the only social welfare institutions established by fraternal societies during the first three decades of the twentieth century. Many lodges embarked on O endeavors ranging from state-of-the-art hospitals and sanitari- ums to preventive health centers staffed by nurses and volunteers. 1

The life insurance orders were responsible for many of the grand projects, especially in health care. Much of this fraternal activism was a legacy of readjustment. The end of cheap rates made it harder for the life insurance orders to compete with the commercial companies, who now had the edge. In 1923 the average annual premium for ten representative life insurance orders for a man who joined at age thirty was $20.81 per $1,000, while the same policy in a commercial company cost $18.29. Under such circumstances, societies responded by returning to their roots as fraternal rather than merely cheap-rate societies. 2

They made the fight against tuberculosis a priority. Causing 140.1 deaths per 100,000 in 1915, the “white plague” was truly a pandemic. But there was reason to believe that individuals could make a positive difference. Evidence was mounting that tuberculosis was curable if detected early. Experts regarded a stay in a sanitarium as a promising form of treatment. In a healthful environment, they suggested, the afflicted could partake of the benefits of improved ventilation, sunshine, a balanced diet, and rest. 3

The fraternal war against tuberculosis began with a proposal by H. A. Warner, the president of NFC from 1901 to 1902. He appealed to member organizations for cooperation in establishing a national fraternal sanitarium in Las Vegas, New Mexico. Warner recommended that construction costs be met by a per capita fee of a penny per month on each of the 3.5 million members. Under this scheme members of the cooperating societies would get free treatment, while nonmembers would pay reduced rates. 4

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