Ku Klux Klan auxiliaries
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The second Ku Klux Klan (KKK), often called the Klan of the 1920s, was officially the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Its membership was open to native-born white male Protestant Americans “of good moral character” over the age of 18. It had chapters in European countries, Canada, Mexico and New Zealand.
Violent acts, scandals, and crimes apart from the leadership contributed largely to public disgrace and downfall of the second KKK and its auxiliaries.
The Klan of the 1920s existed during the Progressive Era, a period of great optimism in the ability of people to improve society. It was a period during which eugenics was widely believed to hold promise for improving society by increasing desirable characteristics of the population and reducing crime, poverty and other social problems.
The 1920s were also characterized by profound social changes that disturbed many of the largely rural, white, Protestant citizens. They feared the potential power and influence of African-Americans, southern Europeans, Roman Catholics, Jews, Bolsheviks (communists), and labor unions. There was a resulting cultural conflict between the old and established and the new and different. The Klan saw itself as defending American culture against dangerous “foreign” people and ideas. It carried the American flag rather than the “rebel” flag as later Klans would.
The second Klan believed that it was defending traditional American values although in doing so it often violated some of those very values. The Klan saw drinking alcoholic beverages as symbolic of southern Europeans, Catholics and Jews and not only strongly supported national prohibition of alcohol but actively enforced it, sometimes with bloody violence.
The Women of the Ku Klux Klan (WKKK) was open to white, Protestant, American born women “of good character” over the age of 18 who owed no allegiance to any foreign government or sect, such as Catholicism, Socialism, Communism, and so on. It is estimated to have had over one million members, a quarter of which were in Indiana. In other states, women made up almost half of the total Klan membership, while in additional states they remained an extreme minority. These women were drawn to the Klan through the insistence of the KKK who ensured that due to their membership, white Protestant women would gain women’s rights.
The initiation of a women’s auxiliary of the Klan however, was spurred as the result of an earlier group of women who called themselves the Ladies of the Invisible Empire (LOTIE). The chapters were initiated throughout the country, with the Portland, Oregon chapter initiating more than one thousand women into their order in a single month in 1922. Initiation into these chapters required the women to detail their family, religious, and political background, as well as swear allegiance to Christianity and the principles of “pure Americanism”. Unsure about the competition that the LOTIE and other women’s organizations would create, the Klan promoted the idea of a single women’s auxiliary, now known as the formal women of the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan noted that by including women in their political agenda, women’s suffrage could not only be safeguarded but could also develop other women’s legal rights, all while working to preserve white Protestant supremacy. The women of the Klan were to be helpmates to the Klansmen and their 100% American mission. Not all Klansmen however, were in favor of officially including women within their group. Some felt that allowing women to be involved in the political realm, including allowing them to vote would foster masculine boldness and independence, which would depreciate the decency of womanhood. From this, women felt alienated and as early as 1922, wrote letters to the editor of the Fiery Cross protesting their exclusion from the Klan. The wives of Klan members were not always happy staying at home with the children, and desired to be involved in the new white Protestant movement that their husbands were involved in.
Women were recruited into the WKKK by hired female kleagles who used the same campaigning methods as their male kleagle counterparts. Recruitment was conducted through social contacts of personal, family, and work connections as well as through existing organizations. Open meetings were also held to the politically inactive and women currently not in Klan families. In four short months, the WKKK had successfully doubled its previous membership, now bringing the total to 250,000 women. By November 1923, thirty-six states included chapters of the women of the KKK.
There were a number of Ku Klux Klan female auxiliary organizations in the 1920s until the foundation of the official Women of the Ku Klux Klan. These groups included Kamelia, Ladies of the Invisible Empire (L.O.T.I.E. or the Loties), Ladies of the Invisible Eye, Dixie Protestant Women's League, Grand League of Protestant Women, White American Protestants, Queens of the Golden Mask and Hooded Ladies of the Mystic Den.
The Junior Ku Klux Klan was for white, Protestant, American boys age 12 to 18.
The Tri-K Girls was for white, Protestant, American born girls age 12 to 18.
The American Krusaders was open to white, Protestant, naturalized American citizens of foreign birth.
The Ku Klux Kiddies was for kids 3-11 and the Klan’s Colored Man auxiliary was for African-American men. Little is known about these auxiliaries.
- Blee, Kathleen M. Women of the Klan: Racism and Gender in the 1920s. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992.
- Alan Axelrod International Encyclopedia of Secret Societies and Fraternal Orders New York; Facts on File, inc 1997 pp.126144
- Paul Gillette and Eugene Tillinger. Inside the Ku Klux Klan. NY: Pyramid, 1965, p. 41
- "Non-Citizen Klan: Royal Riders of the Red Robe". The Washington State Klan in the 1920s. University of Washington. Retrieved June 22, 2014.
- Bevan, Dane (2004). "Portland KKK". Oregon Historical Society. Retrieved June 22, 2014.
- Toy, Eckard. "Ku Klux Klan". Oregon Encyclopedia. Retrieved June 22, 2014.
- Gusfield, Joseph R. Symbolic Crusade: Status Politics and the American Temperance Movement. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1963.