IOSL Social and Financial Support
The Independent Order of St. Luke (IOSL) was a fraternal society. Its misson and activities were dedicated to supporting members and ensuring their financial and social well-being. This included lending money to those in financial difficulty, raising money for members with health problems, and praising fellow members for work well done.
IOSL membership provided a support system on a large scale to ensure the well-being of African Americans nationwide.
Thanks to the 1903 construction and 1919 expansion of the St. Luke Hall, the Order held commanding real estate to host its own events and meetings. IOSL committees and councils rented the building’s many meeting spaces. A 500 seat auditorium facilitated pageants, annual meetings, and other events. Meeting in the Hall and at other events gave IOSL members a tight-knit network of support that encouraged relationships and collaboration on projects. Since telephones were not widely available, the IOSL provided its membership an important route for information exchange. More...
Walker proposed the St. Luke Herald as the Order's news outlet, starting in 1902. It was to be the “mouthpiece” of the Order and allowed “the St. Luke upon the mountain top, and the St. Luke dwelling by the side of the sea” to “hear the same order, keep step to the same music, march in unison to the same command, although miles and miles intervene.” By 1916, the paper had 4,000 subscribers and that number grew as the organization grew. Not only did this weekly paper allow the reader to catch up on news, it also engulfed the readers with St. Luke ideology and Walker’s agenda of black economic uplift. Reports of lynchings, membership rallies, and financial condition of the Order all appeared in the Herald which became the monthly St. Luke Fraternal Bulletin in 1931.
During Walker’s time, IOSL members wore regalia—symbolic pins, pendants, sashes and ribbons—to show their belonging and rank in the organization. The St. Luke Regalia Department started in 1904 and operated under the management of two women in the St. Luke headquarters in Richmond, Virginia. Mrs. Walker wore her regalia proudly as can be seen in many of her formal portraits. As chief of the Juvenile Department, she often donned her blue and white Grand Matron ribbon during her Grand Matron’s annual addresses at IOSL conferences. Walker also wore a deep purple, velvet and silk sash that represented her standing as the Right Worthy Grand Secretary-Treasurer of the Order.
When Mrs. Walker co-founded the IOSL Juvenile Department in 1895, she established a venue where children learned a sense of responsibility as they were taught to save their money, work hard in school, and master hygiene skills. Searching for a motto led the Grand Matron to the phrase, "As the twig is bent, the tree is inclined." The IOSL firmly believed in the communal responsibility of raising children to be positively contributing members of the community. One example of this belief is found in the fact that children had to pay dues to the Order for their membership and insurance coverage, which instilled in them fiscal responsibility . The Order distributed metal pocket-banks to the children so they could fill them with earned money and open a savings account at the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank. The Juvenile Cadet Corps wore navy blue uniforms during neighborhood parades, displaying the organization's youth accomplishments.