The National Grange of the Patrons of Husbandry, a fraternal organization serving the interests of the farming community, was founded in the 1860s to educate farmers through sharing information and technology. It also offered a social outlet for farming families. Grange beliefs are expressed through ritual and ceremony combined with religious tradition. Since inception, the Grange has supported equal treatment of women. Though Grange membership declined in the 1880s due to competition from more politically active farming associations, the Grange is still an active organization providing education and social activities, primarily to rural populations.
Requirements for Membership
Membership in the Grange was once restricted to those involved in farming. Membership in the Grange is now open to all. Family values and traditional morals are emphasized. Members call one another brother and sister. Children can become members of the Junior Grange upon turning 5 and full voting members of the subordinate, or local, Grange at 14. The organization states that it is nondenominational and nonpartisan.
Grange founder Oliver Hudson Kelley, a Freemason, believed rituals bound members of a society together. The rituals of Grange membership reflect Greek and Roman mythology as well as Christian values. The initiation ceremony is conducted at the local or subordinate Grange. Advancement in membership status is achieved by earning degrees through educational activities and participation. Agricultural symbols are incorporated into the conferring of degrees. The first four degrees correspond to the seasons of the year and are conferred at the subordinate Grange. The Pomona, Flora and Ceres or Demeter degrees are respectively conferred by the county, state and national Granges. The higher degrees are earned through holding leadership positions.
The Grange Hall
Organization of the Grange Hall is symbolic of the organization of old English estates. The Grange master's desk represents the estate's castle. Grange officers are designated with titles that include gate keeper, overseer, lecturer, steward and chaplain. The officers' seats are arranged in a particular way in the hall and are meant to symbolize the organization of the estate. The manner in which the hall is set up is designed to reinforce the importance of farm structure. The Grange still employs an annual word, distributed to individual chapters using a key and cipher. This tradition dates back to the founders' decision that Grange members should have a secret password.
The Grange emblem is a seven-sided figure representing the seven founding members of the Grange as well as the seven degrees of membership. In the center of the emblem is a sheaf of wheat to symbolize the organization's focus on farming and agriculture. The sheaf is flanked by the letters "P" and "H' which stand for "Patrons of Husbandry" The name "grange" was chosen by the founding members to represent the old English farm estates which were known as "granges." The Grange's motto is "In essentials -- unity, in non-essentials -- liberty, in all things -- charity."