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Exhibition Join In: Voluntary Assocations in America


In British America, fraternal organizations appeared in the mid-1700s. The colonists almost invariably organized their clubs in a way that excluded women, Native Americans, African Americans, and often members of other non-Protestant denominations. Various organizations over time, however, expanded their membership in selectively more inclusive ways. These associations created a space where White men of different Christian denominations and different social classes could meet and socialize. This mixing of social groups opened up possibilities for networking and leadership development that contributed to the gradual rise of a more democratic society. Likewise, members of excluded groups claimed the practice of creating associations, which has empowered and given collective voice to social minorities across the nation.