Order of AHEPA
(American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association)
The Order of AHEPA was founded in 1922 at Atlanta, Georgia, as a fraternal, national, and patriotic society for men of Greek extraction: The order operates in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Greece. There were 60,000 members in 1989, including the auxiliaries the Daughters of Penelope (women), Maids of Athena (young women), and Sons of Pericles (young men).
AHEPA was originally founded of six Americans of Greek ancestry to help Greek immigrants assimilate into American society—meetings have always been held in English—while keeping alive Greek ethnic awareness and supporting the country of origin. During the 1920s, the United States was in the throes of one of its periodic fits of xenophobia, and Greeks were frequently targeted for discrimination. One of the main initial functions of the Order of AHEPA was to overcome this prejudice.
Within a few days of the order’s being founded, non-Greeks were also declared eligible for admission. Among the more famous of these were Franklin D. Roosevelt (who was initiated when governor of New York) and Harry S Truman. In 1989, about 5 percent of the membership was of non-Greek descent.
Since its founding, the order has expanded into Canada and Australia, with additional chapters in the Bahamas and Greece, and has made appropriate modifications to the objectives, as can be seen in its 1989 fact sheet, which lists the following “Objects and Principles”:
To promote and encourage loyalty in its members to the country of which they are citizens;
To instruct its members in the tenets and fundamental principles of government;
To encourage interest and active participation in the political, civic, social, and commercial fields of human endeavor;
To pledge its members to oppose political corruption and tyranny;
To promote a better and more comprehensive understanding of the attributes and ideals of Hellenism and Hellenic culture;
To promote good fellowship, and endow its members with a spirit of altruism, common understanding, mutual benevolence and helpfulness to their fellow man;
To endow its members with the perfection of the moral sense;
To promote education and maintain new channels for disseminating the fields of culture and learning
The order has the trappings of a secret society on the Masonic model, with an initiation ritual and a vow of secrecy and signs, but is essentially a benevolent, civic-minded fraternal aid association.
The degrees are the same as the elective offices —Officer of the Local Lodge, Officer of the State Lodge, and Officer of the Supreme Lodge — and these are also the three levels of organization, on the usual Masonic plan, though in addition to Supreme Lodge officers (elected for one year) there is also a Board of Directors, who are again elected but who hold office for three years. Surprisingly for a Greek organization, the regalia consists of Turkish-looking fezzes and white trousers.
Although it maintains that it is a nonpolitical and nonsectarian organization, AHEPA maintains a pro-Greek stance on Cyprus. Apart from that, the order has organized programs for disaster relief in the United States, Greece, and even Turkey. It has funded schools in the United States and Greece, and provided a surprising amount of civic statuary.
In a world where fraternal orders are almost everywhere in decline, the Order of AHEPA is remarkable for having more than doubled its membership between 1978 and 1989, as well as for raising an average of more than $35 a head, every year, toward the various causes it supports.
Daughters of Penelope - Initiation Ritual