Sons of Norway marks 118 years [UPDATED]Published 9:04am Friday, March 29, 2013 Updated 11:05am Friday, March 29, 2013
The 118th anniversary of the Sons of Norway is truly a milestone. The group has come a long way since 18 Norwegian men gathered to discuss serious needs for the Norwegian immigrants in Minnesota.
As a result of that meeting in 1895, they instituted an organization to protect their fellow Norwegians and their families.
This year, members throughout the U.S., Canada and Norway celebrated by wearing Norwegian sweaters, Norwegian flag shirts, or pins. Hipp Hipp Hurrah,” exclaimed International President Marit Kristiansen of Anchorage, Alaska.
Sons of Norway, a mutual benefit society, was founded 118 years ago in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The first lodge was named Nidaros, the name of the cathedral in Trondheim in Norway, the place where kings and queens were crowned and now the ceremonies for new royalty are held there. Many of the Otter Tail immigrants left that area as noted by the Nidaros Township and Nidaros Church.
They chose a model of the Masons complete with passwords so only members would hear about the possibility of jobs, the health needs and crises of member families.
More than half a century later during World War II when the men left home, that the women carried on the organization. After the war the women were included in the membership and soon English became the accepted language replacing the Norwegian-only practice. Children’s groups were formed to teach the language and culture of the land their grandparents and parents had left.
Today there are more than 60,000 members located around the world. Official local organizations number over 400 in the United States, Canada and Norway. The insurance company has grown to about $650,000,000 in size. District one has about 90 lodges and extends from the Canadian border of Minnesota south through South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas. Not all states have organizations yet, but are within the District one borders. They include Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana,
Locally, area organizations are located in Fergus Falls, Vining, Glenwood, and Alexandria. These four groups are part of District one, the first of eight districts that are geographical areas.
The president of District one lives locally, Barbara Olson of Vining. She was elected in June 2012 at the District Convention in St. Cloud. She is the first woman to hold the office in District one. All other districts have broken the gender barrier before District one.