Neighbors of America (RNA)
in Monroe County
has its roots in the craft guilds of the Middle Ages, the focus of
which was self-regulation of product quality and mutual promotion.
Other fraternal groups were formed as friendship, patriotic
or religious societies. By
the end of the 1800s, membership in English fraternal societies
alone was more than one million.
life insurance became very popular in the post-Civil War era.
Originally, the insurance was backed by stock companies and
was too expensive for anyone other than prosperous, white
businessmen. By the
1880s, several fraternal benefit societies (nonprofit membership
organizations) were created which offered insurance protection to
their male members. In 1883, a fraternal benefit society was created
called the Modern Woodmen of America.
Today, the Modern Woodmen of America exists as a legal
reserve fraternal assessment society and the Woodman of the World is
a fraternal life insurance society.
by the late 1880s, the United States was undergoing significant
economic and societal changes. In
November 1888, the wives of the Modern Woodmen of America in Council
Bluffs, IA formed a ‘ladies auxiliary’ to the Modern Woodmen
Camp 171. Within a
year, the group had reorganized as a social organization, with a
constitution, rituals and articles of incorporation, and renamed
themselves as the “Royal Neighbors of America”.
The local groups, called camps, held social events and
carried out benevolent work.
1892 and 1894, the Royal Neighbors voted to incorporate as a
fraternal benefit society in the state of Illinois which had
favorable insurance laws. By
1895, Royal Neighbors of America was officially recognized and
included more than 4,100 charter members; assessments of and
benefits to the female members played an important role in the
to the early Royal Neighbors charter, the society was formed “to
bring joy and comfort into many homes that might otherwise today be
dark and cheerless…by affording the mother an opportunity to
provide protection upon her life.”
By 1903, Royal Neighbors of America had extended its
membership to include all women, not only those affiliated with
above are two receipts from Monroe County RNA camps.
The first is from Camp 5306 in Duncan’s Bridge (1913) and
the second from Camp 6520 in Woodlawn (1911).
were several RNA camps formed in Monroe County:
6520, Woodlawn Charter date
unavailable; consolidated Apr 1931 into:
5306, Duncan’s Bridge
Chartered March 26, 1908; consolidated 1938 into:
Chartered June 24, 1904; consolidated 1986 into:
Chartered June 15, 1906
The Woodlawn receipt above helps to establish the camp charter date
as before Oct 14, 1911.)
to the left is an example of an RNA parade ribbon from the Lilac
Camp in Kansas; this ribbon displays the Royal Neighbors emblem and
is typical of the early memorabilia worn by the RNA women.
interest, the Royal Neighbors emblem has remained unchanged since
1894 and represents the values most important to those pioneering
women and the guiding principles of the organization:
The blue petal represents Faith.
The “grace”, or symbol within it, is a cross with a lily
of the valley flower.
The yellow petal represents Unselfishness, and its
grace is a handshake.
The green petal represents Courage, and its grace is a
The purple petal represents Endurance, and its grace
is a crown.
The white petal represents Modesty, and its grace is a
The symbol in the center represents Morality, and its
grace is a crown with a cross.
RNA Camp receipts generously provided by Virginia Gentry,
from documents belonging to her Great-Grandmother Lucy M. LeGrand
Freeman. Information on
the RNA organization was primarily derived from the “History of
RNA” at www.royalneighbors.org.
RNA Lilac Camp
Parade Ribbon displayed with permission of Bob Fusco of GWG