What is the Independent Order of Odd Fellows?

Mary Elizabeth

Though it may be difficult to discern from its name, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows is the North American chapter of a service organization open to those who meet four criteria. The first is a minimum age that is stated as a range of 16–18. The second is a belief in a Supreme Being that is both the creator of, as well as the preserver of, all that is. The third criteria is being faithful to one’s country. And the fourth is to be a person of good character. Candidates for joining must be sponsored by current members. There are a number of degrees of membership.

Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

The Independent Order of Odd Fellows is part of the larger collection of Orders of Odd Fellows which was formed in the eighteenth century. The North American branch was founded on 26 April 1819 in Baltimore, Maryland as an offshoot of the Order in England. The name “Odd Fellows” is said to stem from the members’ lack of desire for publicity for their accomplishments.

Similarly, the Rebekahs are an offshoot of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, with a creed based on the behavior of the women who appear in the Old Testament of the Bible, although it is a degree that can be conferred on men as well as women. The Rebekah Creed, refers to God as Father, men as brothers, and women as sisters, as well as the watchwords of friendship, truth, and love.

Odd Fellows contribute service locally, at the state or provincial level, or through national projects. The type of service in which Odd Fellows are involved is intended to have an elevating or improving effect on humankind. Examples of the good works of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows include:

• The Educational Foundation, their first project, which since 1927 has provided low-interest loans to help people further their education

• The S.O.S. Village, also called the Odd Fellow Village, is an orphanage taking shape in Battam Bang in Cambodia for children affected by AIDS

• The Visual Research Foundation & Endowment

• The World Hunger & Disaster Fund

• Contributing more than any other corporate entity to the Arthritis Foundation

Membership includes benefits such being able to join a reduced prescription drug costs and vision care program, as well as tours and pilgrimages to inspirational and important locales, such as the United Nations Pilgrimage for youth and the pilgrimage to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. They also provide a float for the Rose Bowl Parade.

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Discussion Comments


@miriam98 - You are correct that you can serve through a variety of organizations. However, I think there is a difference when you join a fraternal order of odd fellows.

It’s like a band of brothers (or sisters, if you prefer). In this age where people tend to connect more online than in person, joining a fraternal order can be a breath of fresh air in my opinion.

You can form some close friendships that will stay with you a long time in these organizations. Some people stay with the organization for decades from what I understand.


By today’s measure, I think you will find a lot of service and religious groups who satisfy the criteria of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.

I think of the Salvation Army and many evangelicals as one example. I think we could agree that they all agree in one creator, believe in being loyal to your country and also in being people of good character.

So while the Independent Order of Odd Fellows is an old organization I believe that its creeds and traditions exist in a variety of forms in our present age. Of course, the organization itself still exists and is quite active in community assistance projects. There are several chapters where we live, each existing as independent lodges. To join you have to find other members I think.


Both of my grandparents were a part of these organizations. First my grandmother joined the Rebekahs, and not long afterwards, my grandfather became a part of his local fraternal order of Odd Fellows.

I remember my grandmother being more involved than my grandfather was. She was in a leadership position for many years, and even went to some of their national meetings.

The Odd Fellows have a long history of doing good. Education was always very important to my grandfather, and he wanted to make sure all of his kids got a college education.

The Odd Fellows participation in making low-interest loans available for low income students is something that my grandfather feels very passionately about.


@bagley79 - You should be able to find local information for the Odd Fellows online.

My dad has been a part of this organization for as long as I can remember. Because of his involvement in this group, I have always had a lot of respect for the work they do.

They really are serious about the benevolent projects they are a part of. One thing that really sticks out to me is they are involved at many different levels.

They have donated to many of our local community needs, but are also involved in causes that reach people around the world.


I had no idea the Odd Fellows were involved in such big causes. I find it very interesting they are the number one corporate contributor to the Arthritis Foundation.

As someone who has struggled with rheumatoid arthritis for many years, and tried to raise funds to support this foundation, I never knew this about the Odd Fellows.

Something like that really increases the amount of respect I have for this organization. It seems like you don't hear much about the Odd Fellows anymore. At least I don't around my area of the country.

How does someone find out of there is a fraternal order of Odd Fellows in their area?

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