Sons of Norway

The Sons of Norway was founded in 1895 as an ethnic fraternal benefit society for (mostly American) persons of Norwegian birth, descent, or affiliation by marriage. There were 90,000 members in 1995. In 2008 it had 68,000 members, living in the U.S., Canada and Norway.

The Sons of Norway is a large, successful ethnic fraternal benefit organization, offering the usual mix of insurance, cultural events and facilities, and general good works. In particular, the Sons can boast two features found only in the larger organizations; a good-sized library and a retirement home. There is also a strong publication program, not just for printed material, but also for Norse-oriented film strips and motion pictures.

The society was incorporated as the Independent Order of the Sons of Norway in 1898, three years after its foundation. After union with the Grand Lodge of the Sons of Norway of the Pacific Coast in 1912, it adopted a new constitution, which reflected a growth in ethnic self-esteem. Members talked about giving their adopted land the benefits of their "social and political consciousness," while in the earlier document the organization had hoped merely that "the Norwegian people in this country may be properly recognized and respected. "

The Sons of Norway began as an all-male adult club, but as early as 1916 women could be admitted to male lodges where there was no branch of the female auxiliary, the Daughters of Norway. The male and female branches united in 1950, and in 1956 a system of junior lodges was introduced. The Sons also merged with or absorbed the Knights of the White Cross in 1940.

The original rituals attracted some adverse comment from conservative churchmen for being somewhat paganistic, drawing on Norse heritage and deities. As a result, they have been heavily modified over the decades; for example, the burial trial was abandoned completely as early as 1909.

The insurance aspect of the society has also been through a number of iterations. At first, life, sickness, and accident were offered, then (in 1934) life only, then a gradual expansion of the insurance offerings to include mortgage protection, pension plans, and automobile insurance.

The Sons of Norway have never permitted the consumption of alcohol in lodge halls, picnics, or other functions.

Ritual for the First Degree (in norwegian)