Grand Court Order of Calanthe of Texas
2411 Dowling Street
Houston , 77004
Application submitted to THC, Class of 2011, 11HR09; marker shipped 10-27-12
Directions: From I-45 south on Dowling, building on east side of the street, marker is near the left corner (facing) of the building
Key Time Period: 1893 - 1919 City Beautiful - WW I
Marker Text: African American fraternal benefit societies experienced a "golden age" from the 1870s to the 1930s as they were one of the few venues where members could exercise influence within their communities and attain needs, such as sick benefits and life insurance, which were otherwise not being met. As African American women also struggled for autonomy, female auxiliaries arose.
On May 14, 1883 in Mississippi, Thomas Stringer, Supreme Chancellor of the Colored Knights of Pythias, approved the plan of Mattie A. Williams and Virginia C. Green for an "Independent Order of Calanthe." Named for the wife of Pythias and founded on the principles of "fidelity, harmony, and love," it aimed to unite female relatives of the Knights, educate its members, and establish a fund for its sick. By 1888, there were 33 courts in the U.S.
By 1898 Susie H. Norris of Dallas had organized the "Grand Court Independent Order of Calanthe of Texas" in Houston. In 1909 the name was amended to "Grand Court Order of Calanthe of Texas." A source of benefits, training, and employment, the order also worked with the local N.A.A.C.P. Chapter to gain voting and civil rights for African Americans. America D. Key, Grand Worthy Counsellor from 1902 to 1925, modernized the popular insurance feature.
The Grand Court constructed its state headquarters at 2411 Dowling Street in 1948, when few modern buildings were built and operated by African American women. Here they provided meeting space for local civic activities, managed millions of dollars, and made mortgage loans to local residents. The Grand Court, the first African American order to join the Texas Fraternal Congress, remains one of the largest and most successful female-led groups in the fraternal insurance industry.
175 Years of Texas independence * 1836-2011
Marker is property of the State of Texas
Historical Org: Texas Historical Commission (THC)
Key Map Information: 493 U
GPS Coordinates: 29 44.321, 95 21.693
Precinct No: 1
Marker No: 16769