Friendly society

Friendly society

A friendly society (sometimes called a mutual society, benevolent society or fraternal organization) is a mutual association for insurance, pensions or savings and loan-like purposes, or cooperative banking. It is a mutual organization or benefit society composed of a body of people who join together for a common financial or social purpose. Before modern insurance, and the welfare state, friendly societies provided financial and social services to individuals, often according to their religious or political affiliations. Some friendly societies, especially in the past, served ceremonial and friendship purposes also.

Before large-scale government and employer health insurance and the development of other financial services, friendly societies played an important part in many people's lives. In some countries, half of the population was covered by such societies.[citation needed] Many of these societies still exist. In some countries, they developed as large mutually run financial institutions, typically insurance companies, and lost any social and ceremonial aspect they may have had; in others they have taken on a more charitable or social aspect.

In some cases, especially in America, members typically paid a regular membership fee and went to lodge meetings to take part in ceremonies. If members became sick, they would receive an allowance to help them meet their financial obligations. The society would have a regular doctor who the member could visit for free. Members of the lodge would visit to provide emotional support (and possibly to check that the sick member was not malingering). When members died, their funeral would be paid for and the members of their lodge would attend in ceremonial dress—often, there was some money left over from the funeral for the widow. Friendly societies also had social functions such as dances, and some had sporting teams for members to participate in. They occasionally became involved in political issues that were of interest to their members. Others were largely purely financial, with little or no social side, from their foundation—this was more typical in Great Britain. The first Mutual savings bank, founded in Scotland in 1810, was called the “Savings and Friendly Society”. Credit unions and other types of organization are modern equivalents.

In the more social type, each lodge was generally responsible for its own affairs, but it was often associated with an order of lodges such as the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, or the Independent Order of Foresters. There were typically reciprocal agreements between lodges within an order, so that if members moved cities or countries, they could join a new lodge without having to serve any initiation time. The ceremonies were also fairly uniform throughout an order. Occasionally, a lodge might change the order that it was associated with, or a group of lodges would break away from an order and form a new one, or two orders might merge. Consequentially, the history of any particular friendly society is difficult to follow. Often, there were unassociated orders with similar names.

Friendly Society Brasses were the emblems of village Friendly Societies or Clubs common in the west of England between the late 18th and early 20th centuries. The use of brasses as emblems was particularly prevalent in Somerset and the surrounding counties.[1]


List of some friendly societies

Female Friendly Society

Female Friendly Societies were a common form of Friendly Society in England during the nineteenth century. The societies were more common in areas of the country where larger proportions of the female population were in employment.

See also

  • 501(c)(4)


  1. ^ Fuller, Margaret (1964). West Country Friendly Societies: An Account of Village Benefit Clubs and their Brass Pole Heads. Oakwood Press & University of Reading. pp. 119. 

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • friendly society — ➔ society * * * friendly society UK US noun [C] (plural friendly societies) ► FINANCE in the UK, an organization to which members pay amounts of money regularly over a long period so that when they are ill or old they will receive money back …   Financial and business terms

  • friendly society — friendly societies N COUNT A friendly society is an organization to which people regularly pay small amounts of money and which then gives them money when they retire or when they are ill. [BRIT] …   English dictionary

  • friendly society — ► NOUN ▪ (in the UK) a mutual association providing sickness benefits, life assurance, and pensions …   English terms dictionary

  • friendly society — noun Britain : benefit society * * * friendly society noun A benefit society, an association for relief in sickness, old age or widowhood, by provident insurance • • • Main Entry: ↑friend * * * friendly society UK US noun …   Useful english dictionary

  • Friendly Society — A UK non profit making association registered as such under the Friendly Society Acts (1896 1992). Mutual insurance societies of this kind date back to the 17th century and remained widespread until the introduction of National Insurance in 1946 …   Big dictionary of business and management

  • friendly society — UK / US noun [countable] Word forms friendly society : singular friendly society plural friendly societies an organization in the UK that saves money for people who give small amounts of money regularly …   English dictionary

  • friendly society — Benefit society Benefit society A society or association formed for mutual insurance, as among tradesmen or in labor unions, to provide for relief in sickness, old age, and for the expenses of burial. Usually called {friendly society} in Great… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Friendly Society — A non profitmaking mutual company registered as such under the Friendly Society Acts (1896–1955). Mutual insurance societies were formerly widespread but many closed after the introduction of National Insurance in 1946. Those that remain offer a… …   Accounting dictionary

  • friendly society — friendly so.ciety n an association in Britain that people regularly pay small amounts of money to, which then provides them with money when they become old or ill …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • friendly society — friendly so,ciety noun count an organization in the U.K. that saves money for people who give small amounts of money regularly …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English