Acquisition RecognitionUncategorizedWomen's History Month

Acquisition Recognition – Women of Woodcraft Ledger

Women of Woodcraft Ledger, 1913-1918. Object ID: 2021.024; Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center Collection

The ledger pictured above was recently donated the museum. While the outside appears as a simple ledger, the inside contains insight into one of our local organizations: Women of Woodcraft. The ledger has the minutes of each meeting, as well as correspondence. One letter, sent from the head of the organization on December 9, 1918, makes mention of the group being unable to meet due to a quarantine that took place during the 1918 influenza pandemic.  

Women of Woodcraft Ledger, 1913-1918. Object ID: 2021.024; Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center Collection

Women of Woodcraft was an auxiliary of Woodmen of the World. Joseph Cullen Root was the founder of Woodmen of the World in 1890. He had originally founded the Modern Woodmen of the World in 1883, but had a falling out with the other leadership and resigned. Woodmen of the World (now marketed as WoodmenLife) is a not-for-profit fraternal benefit society that operates an insurance company for its members. The first women’s auxiliary that was started was the Woodman Circle. However, Woodmen Circle members in Colorado and Oregon were dissatisfied and formed the Pacific Circle, Women of Woodcraft in 1897. While it started out with small numbers, an article in the Herald Democrat from January 1, 1903 noted that at the time, the order numbered 37,000 members in 527 circles[1] in Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Montana, California, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, and Nevada. Carrie Van Orsdall had been named as the Grand Guardian and headquarters were built in Portland, Oregon. As both men and women were involved in the organization, it was later renamed Neighbors of Woodcraft. The organization merged into Woodmen of the World in 2001. The Women of Woodcraft in Cañon City was Gate Circle No. 120 and during the time of the ledger they met twice a month, every second and fourth Monday. The lodge in Cañon City was formed in 1898, and by 1899 the membership was increasing rapidly, according to an article in the Cañon City Record on September 7 of that year. The article noted that death benefits were available from $500 – $2,000 at a moderate cost. An advertising drill contest was arranged for September at the opera house.

Women of Woodcraft (likely a drill team), ca. 1910. Object ID: 2011.033.001; Copyright Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center

Woodmen of the World and Women of Woodcraft held annual memorial services for their deceased members. An article in the Cañon City Daily Record reported on the upcoming event on June 5, 1926. Both the Woodmen of the World and Neighbors of Woodcraft of Cañon City planned to decorate graves at Greenwood and Lakeside cemeteries. At the time, eighty former members were buried in the two cemeteries. Of the 500 members in place in 1926, 40 percent were no longer residents of Cañon City.

Funeral of Michael O’Leary at Lakeside Cemetery with the Woodmen of the World and Women of Woodcraft, January 1907. Object ID: 2001.033.002; Copyright Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center

Up until 1918, the papers reported on the lodge under the name Women of Woodcraft. In 1918, the papers begin referring to the organization as the Neighbors of Woodcraft, the name that was kept until the group merged into WoodLife in 2001.

The information presented in this article is compiled using research conducted by the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center.

[1] Local units were Circles, regional areas were District Circles, and the national authority was the Grand Circle.

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