The Grange (officially known as The Order of Patrons of Husbandry) is a fraternal organization with a rich history and a highly visible community presence in the United States. (For historical information, see Birthplace of an American Treasure)
The organization is a perfect example of a grass-roots, bottom-up group. The backbone of the Grange is the more than 3,000 local "subordinate" Granges which are located in more than 30 states. These Granges offer a wide range of locally-oriented programs and activities for children, youth and adults. Each holds regular meetings where issues of community concern are often discussed. There are social events, contests and community service projects sponsored by the Granges.
On the county or regional level these local Granges band together into units known as Pomona Granges, primarily for discussion of concerns which affect a larger territory. On the statewide level Granges cooperate by supporting a State Grange organization which oversees the activities of all subordinate Granges as well as conducts lobbying and other activities on behalf of all members in the state.
The National Grange is situated in its own office building just a couple of blocks from the White House. National programs are headquartered there and lobbying staff is active on Capitol Hill.
The Grange at each level is guided by 16 elected officers. The officer slate at each level is led by a master. This title, which refers to the position functioning as the organization's president or chairperson, is one of several officer names dating back to the feudal English estates. The vice president is called the overseer and there are people assuming the duties of secretary, treasurer, chaplain and an executive committee. A lecturer is responsible for the short programs at each meeting and, often, the Grange's community service program.
The Grange, like the Masons, Odd Fellows, Elks and Moose, is a fraternal organization. One distinctive feature of fraternal orders is their emphasis upon traditional procedures for conducting their meetings. These procedures, often called rituals, employ members who have specific parts to play in opening and closing ceremonies. The Grange, like other fraternities, has levels or "degrees" of membership and a member advances from one level to the next by participating in or observing the rituals for that level.
Joining a local Grange is a positive step which can bring many personal rewards. Prospective members are recommended by existing members but, in actuality, anyone interested in joining merely needs to approach a member and ask for an application.
The Grange has the historical distinction as being one of the first major national organizations besides the church which sought the membership and involvement of everyone in the family. Grange members have an equal voice and an equal vote at meetings regardless of their age, sex or position within the Grange. Children ages five through 16 are eligible to belong to a junior Grange, whether or not they come from a Grange family.
The Grange provides numerous benefits for its members. Among those are insurance programs provided exclusively for Grangers by Grange companies. Grange Advantage, a program of the National Grange, offers credit card, college selection services and other money- saving programs.
But perhaps more than anything else, the Grange's interest in legislative action sets it apart from all other fraternities, service and family organizations. Since its earliest years, the Grange has included legislative involvement -- from a strictly non-partisan position -- as one of its distinctive characteristics. All policies which the Grange fights for on the local, state and national levels is decided upon by the grass-roots membership. Much Grange policy reflects the predominantly rural and small-town composition of its membership and therefore deals with topics of concern to those people: rural quality of life issues, farm programs, rural economic development, environmental and consumer issues, taxation, transportation and similar topics.
For Further Information:
People, Pride and Progress: 125 Years of the Grange in America by David H. Howard (Washington, D.C.: National Grange, 1992). Hardback copies available through libraries or for $12 plus $3 for shipping/handling from the National Grange, 1616 H. St. NW, Washington, DC 20006.
Knights of the Plow: Oliver H. Kelley and the Origins of the Grange in Republican Ideology by Thomas A Woods (Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press, 1991). Available through most libraries or bookstores. [Note: The "Republican ideology" mentioned in the title is not the Republican Party.]
Women of the Grange: Mutuality and Sisterhood in Rural America, 1866-1920 by Donald B. Marti (New York: Greenwood Press, 1991). Available through most libraries or bookstores.
The Grange--Friend of the Farmer by Charles M. Gardner (Washington, D.C.: National Grange, 1949). Available through most libraries.
Note: If your local library does not have the titles you seek, ask them to secure the books through "Inter-Library Loan" services.