Wilder Wednesday – The Shining Star

Wilder Wednesday posts are inspired by Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie book series.

I have just learned something new! Isn’t it a wonderful thing that we are ‘never too old to learn’… ~Laura Ingalls Wilder, “Giving and Taking Advice,” Missouri Ruralist, January 20, 1917

This week’s post was going to be about Laura the Party Girl, but then I realized that tomorrow is June 4, and knew this week had to be about Laura the Shining Star. (The Party post will appear in the future. Click “follow” to be notified when it does.)

It was on June 4 in 1897 that Laura became a member of the Mansfield Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star in Mansfield, Missouri.

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Minutes from the meeting of the Order of the Eastern Star at which Laura was admitted to Mansfield Chapter

The Order of the Eastern Star is a benevolent fraternity for Freemasons and their families. Its motto is “Dedication To Charity, Truth And Loving Kindness.” Like Freemasonry, the Order of the Eastern Star has a two-fold purpose: improvement of self, and improvement of society. This is achieved through promotion of education and charity. As a benevolent society, the Order of the Eastern Star has fostered programs which have raised millions of dollars for various charitable causes, including finding cures for diseases, care for orphans and the elderly, and scholarships.

Those who have read the Little House series of books know that the Ingalls family valued education, and those who have read her Missouri Ruralist articles know that Laura valued learning her entire life. We also know that Laura was raised to be helpful and to be truthful. Thus she was a perfect fit for the Order of the Eastern Star.

Laura first joined the Order of the Eastern Star in De Smet, South Dakota in 1893. She qualified for membership as the daughter of a Freemason. In De Smet, Laura was active in the Bethlehem Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star, even serving as an officer.

3-beth 1893 11 13 LIW ap init 2

Minutes of the meeting of the Order of the Eastern Star at which Laura was first initiated.

Laura wasn’t the only Ingalls who was a member of the Chapter. Her mother Caroline and her little sister Carrie were also members, and her father Charles joined soon after she did. They were a family of stars, shining in the community.

Only a few months after joining Bethlehem Chapter, Laura moved with her husband Almanzo and their daughter Rose to Mansfield, Missouri. When the Wilders settled there, there was not an Eastern Star Chapter in the town. Laura helped organize one a few years later. According to the rules of the Order, those wishing to transfer membership from one Chapter to another, as Laura did, must be voted on by the new Chapter. So even though she helped establish Mansfield Chapter, Laura did not officially become a member until they voted her in, on June 4, 1897. Almanzo joined a few years later, in 1903; he had joined the Masonic Lodge in 1898.

In Mansfield Chapter, Laura and Almanzo were both very active for over 3 decades. They held many offices. Laura served as Worthy Matron, the highest office of a Chapter, three times. She even held an office at the Grand Chapter (state) level, and attended Grand Chapter sessions several times.

3-pin cover

Laura’s pin from the Grand Session of the Order of the Eastern Star held in Kansas City in September, 1906.

Mansfield Chapter gave Laura a gift of appreciation on two separate occasions for her work in the Order of the Eastern Star. One of these was a book, and the other a gold pin.

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Minutes from the meeting of the Order of the Eastern Star at which Laura was gifted a gold pin in appreciation of her service.

Some other famous Eastern Stars: Clara Barton; Maya Angelou; Eleanor Roosevelt; Colleen Dewhurst; Barbara Mandrell; Dale Evans; Rosa Parks; and President Harry Truman and his wife Bess.

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