CONNECTING PEOPLE TO IDEAS AND TO EACH OTHER
CONNECTING PEOPLE TO IDEAS AND TO EACH OTHER

When Secret Societies Sold Life Insurance

Before the Great Depression, Fraternal Lodges Offered Financial Security Without the Stigma of Charity

Once, when I visited my brother, who lives in a small Texas town, he took me down a winding road to a turn-of-the-20th-century cemetery in a forest clearing. There, we found three tall tombstones in the shape of tree trunks, each stamped with an insignia reading “Woodmen of the World.” What were these strange things?

When I got home, I dug into the mystery of these stone stumps, discovering the profoundly insecure time before Americans had Social Security, when anxieties about death and finances ran deep in the American psyche. In …

More In: Secret Society