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Hagerstown Elks admit women

December 11, 1998|By LAURA ERNDE

The Hagerstown Elks have admitted the first women members in the lodge's 102-year history.

Five of six women who applied for membership were voted into the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks Lodge 378 on Tuesday night, said Exalted Ruler Jim Ensminger.

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He would not give their names.

With 3,000 members, the Hagerstown Elks is the eighth or ninth largest lodge in the country, Ensminger said.

It also was one of the last to accept women. It has been three years since the national organization lifted a ban on women.

"I'd say a major majority have women. It's almost impossible to find one that doesn't have women admitted," said Frank Garland, chairman of the Elks national advisory board.

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There's no way to track how many of the 1.2 million Elks nationwide are women, he said.

Elks lodges in Waynesboro, Pa., Chambersburg, Pa., and Martinsburg, W.Va., all have women members.

Four women who were admitted to BPOE Lodge 731 in Waynesboro last year said they joined for the good food and clean, upscale surroundings.

Ensminger said the women who were voted into the Robinwood Drive lodge didn't face any hurdles because the decision to admit women had been made years ago and advertised in the lodge's newsletter two months ago.

"We knew it was coming, so it was no problem," he said.

Any new Elk member has to be sponsored by a member, endorsed by two others and approved by a majority of the members.

The bylaws of the Hagerstown Elks Ladies' Auxiliary are being rewritten to include men, Ensminger said.

Asked if any men would join, Ensminger said, "Absolutely not."

As more women join the Elks, the need for a ladies auxiliary may diminish, he said.

"I suspect in five to 10 years there will be no ladies auxiliary. They'll all be lady Elks," he said.

The Elks is one of the largest fraternal organizations in the country. The first formal meeting was held Feb. 16, 1868 in New York City. Fifteen people turned out, most of them young, undiscovered actors who had gathered for companionship and to help their out-of-work peers.

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