Missouri’s first assembly was instituted July 23, 1923 in Webb City. Dad Chris L Stange was Missouri’s first Supreme Deputy. In 1950, he became Supreme Inspector and House of Gold member.
The first Grand Assembly was held in Windsor in 1927. By that time, Missouri had five assemblies, Webb City, Monett, St Louis, Neosho, and Windsor. The first set of Grand Officers were selected by lottery. With Ida Bell (Corley) Menke from St Louis, being select by Dad Stange as the first Grand Worthy Advisor. They served in 1928 at the second Grand Assembly held in Webb City.
During that first Grand Assembly, the Windsor officers held their regular assembly drill on the street, in front of the hall. The city was decorated with welcome signs, and when a Rainbow Girl wanted to purchase something, the wonderful businessmen would refuse their money
The early Grand Assemblies were held in many different smaller towns across the state. Sessions were held in school gyms, college buildings, Masonic or Scottish Rite Temples. The girls were housed in the homes of local Masonic families. Today Missouri Grand Assemblies are held in hotel ballrooms, with housing in the same hotel.
Being so close to Oklahoma, Missouri was honored to have W Mark Sexson attend many of our early Grand Assemblies and other state and local events. Our assemblies have also been frequent visitors at the Supreme Temple in McAllister, where Mr. Sexson used to welcome them and share his time.
Missouri was honored to host Supreme Assembly in 1952 in Kansas City. Missouri scheduled Grand Assembly for July 3-5. Supreme Assembly started the next day and ran through the 9th. This was the Supreme Assembly when the International Temple was dedicated. Our State Grand Cross of Color officers were honored to perform the conferring of degrees for members from around the world.
Dad Claude O. Simpson followed Dad Stange as Supreme Deputy in 1956. He was elected Supreme Inspector and House of Gold member in 1962 and later appointed Supreme Confidential Observer. He continued in these capacities until he died in 1976 at Supreme Assembly in Anaheim, California.
Jeanne Mueller was appointed Supreme Deputy after Dad Simpson’s death and was elected Supreme Inspector and House of Gold member in 1984. She served as Supreme Patriotism from 1990 until she died in 1994. Ms. Mueller was lovingly referred to as the “Dragon Lady” by her Rainbow Girls.
Dr. Susan Albers succeeded Jeanne Mueller as Supreme Deputy when she resigned as Supreme Inspector in 1992. Susan, one of Missouri’s Past Grand Worthy Advisors, lead Missouri until her resignation in 1998. Catherine Dent was appointed Supreme Deputy at the 75th Anniversary Supreme Assembly in St Louis in July 1998. In 2006, Catherine was elected Supreme Inspector and House of Gold member.
Following Catherine’s resignation in September 2014, Missouri was directed by a transition team composed of Mrs. Dorleta Lodholz, Mrs. Debbie Rickard, and Mrs. Donna Freeman. In February 2015, Mrs. Dorleta Lodholz, Past Grand Worthy Advisor, was appointed Supreme Deputy.
All our Supreme leaders have been dedicated and devoted men and women who loved Rainbow and gave many, many years of service to the Grand Jurisdiction of Missouri.
In the early years, Grand Worthy Advisors were required to visit each assembly in the state during their year. Several GWAs postponed their college education by a year when they served. The GWA’s visits were not big state-wide events like they are today. They were usually scheduled on regular meeting nights with only a few local grand officers in addition to the GWA. It was common for GWAs to appoint Grand Representatives during her assembly visits.
Today, Missouri Grand Worthy Advisors schedule one visit in each district. These visits bring Grand Officers and Rainbow Girls from across the state. At the Grand Worthy Advisor’s discretion, these visits can be formal initiations, casual picnics, or anything in between.
We have had 2 sets of mothers and daughters who served as Grand Worthy Advisor. GWA Mary Anna (Turner) Robertson, 1945-46, had a daughter Janet (Robertson) D’Ercole who served 1968-69. GWA and Supreme Deputy Dorleta (Oetting) Lodholz had 2 daughters who served as GWA, Nicole (Lodholz) Crowley, 2007-08, and Mckenzie Lodholz, 2015-16.
John and Evelyn Meader have the unique distinction of having daughters that served as Grand Worthy Advisor in 2 different states. Jill Meader was GWA of Nebraska and Mary Meader was GWA of Missouri. Our list of PGWAs also includes a set of twins. Amanda (Baker) Timmer, 2004-2005, and Pamela (Baker) Moore, 2005-2006, are fraternal twins. We had another set of sisters that served 6 years apart, Shelley (Freeman) Wears, 1983-84, and Sarah (Freeman) Odom, 1989-90.
Missouri Rainbow Girls have gone on to make a difference in their communities, their states, and beyond. Many of our girls choose careers in education. Yes, teaching is a traditional career for women, but it is more important than ever to have good teachers for our children. Rainbow Girls want to make a difference in the lives of their students. Becoming a teacher lets you impart life lessons that students will never forget and puts you in a position to influence their decisions, behaviors, strengths, and imaginations. Missouri’s 5th Grand Worthy Advisor was Mary Helen Willhoite. Mary Helen was born without a left arm, but it was never treated as a handicap. She joined Rainbow in 1924 and became GWA in 1931. After her year as GWA, she received her bachelor’s degree in education and went on to get her master’s degree in elementary administration. Mary Helen began her career as an elementary school teacher, moved on to principal, and served 28 years as supervisor of all elementary schools for her city.
In 1984, Judith Craig, GWA 1956-57, was only the third woman elected as a United Methodist bishop in the US. She was the first woman bishop to be assigned to the West Michigan and Detroit Conferences, where she served 8 years. She then served 8 years in Ohio. “Bishop Craig was playful, joyful, eloquent and savvy. At the same time, as her sermons inspired us with theological depth as well as creativity, she did not take herself too seriously.” Judy was the first woman invited by the Council of Bishops to address the denomination’s top lawmaking body.
Many of our Rainbow Girls take on the important role of wife and mother. Grand Worthy Advisor Margaret McCluskey,1941-42, was one of those women. After serving as GWA she finished her degree in journalism. She married and raised 4 children while working for newspapers. After her children were grown and starting their adult lives, she went on to new challenges. She worked for the US Forest Service in the pacific northwest, and at age 65 she joined the Peace Corp and was posted to the North African nation of Tunisia.
When W Mark Sexton wrote our ritual, military service was limited to men. Today, Missouri is proud of our members that have served our country in the military. One example is Dr. Melissa Terry, GWA 1994-95, currently an ob/gyn physician in Missouri. She served the Army in Germany and Italy and was deployed to Pakistan on a humanitarian mission. She returned to the US and was stationed in Virginia and Georgia, before retiring as a Lt Colonial and returning to her home state.
As a single mother, Past State Dean Anna (Beckmeyer) Tate was devoted to her 3 children. She became a Tupperware dealer in 1959 and founded a Tupperware distributorship. After her retirement in 1982, she served as an international sales consultant for Tupperware and participated in the PBS “American Experience” program on Tupperware.
It is not only our Rainbow leaders that go on to make a difference. We have majority Rainbow Girls that are lawyers, judges, engineers, EMTs, nurses, doctors, and many more highly educated and service-related professions.
Missouri Rainbow Girls have always been dedicated to service in their communities. For its state-wide service projects, Missouri has selected a wide spectrum of needs. We have supported traditional charities such as the Shriners’ Hospitals, Masonic Homes in MO, and cancer research. We have also provided assistance to the Humane Societies of MO, to Rainbow families in need of health care assistance, to Missouri sisters who suffered great losses in the 1993 floods, to California sisters who endured great hardships as a result of an earthquake, and many more. On a local level Missouri Rainbow Assemblies support the needs of their community members, whether it is feeding the hungry, visiting the elderly, or providing gifts for underprivileged children at Christmas time.
Missouri is immensely proud to have an organized Grand Cross of Color Preceptory. We have State Officers lead by a State Dean that serve for a one-year team. State Officers can be any age if they are/or have been Rainbow Girls in good standing. Grand Cross gives our majority members the opportunity to stay active with Rainbow. We also have a State Preceptor, appointed by our Supreme Deputy/Inspector, to manage the affairs of the State Preceptory. In the history of Missouri Grand Cross, only four people have held this office: Dad Harry B Simpson, Mrs. Vina Lue Larson, Mrs. Janie Sanders, and Mrs. Debbie Rickard.
Missouri Grand Cross sponsors the Pledge Assemblies around the state. Our Missouri State Pledge officers, under the direction of the State Pledge Mother, perform their initiation ceremony at Grand Assembly each year. In July 2014, the Missouri State Pledge Officers performed at Supreme Assembly in Baltimore, Maryland. Our Supreme Inspector, Catherine, had lobbied for several years to get the Pledges on the agenda for Supreme. All of Missouri was full of pride when the Pledges performed with distinction, as we all knew they would.
Missouri has developed a program to include even younger girls. Girls, between the ages of 3 and 6, may become Sparkles upon the invitation of any Pledge, Rainbow Girl, Grand Cross Master, Masonic, Eastern Star, Amaranth, or White Shrine member. Sparkles have their own pin in the shape of the state of Missouri with the words “Rainbow Sparkle” in gold and seven stars forming a Rainbow in the seven colors of the Rainbow, which is usually awarded to them by the State Dean. Sparkles do not have officers or meetings. Little girls just enjoy being recognized and getting a shiny pin.
At its peak, Missouri had 92 Rainbow Assemblies. In 2020, we have 22 assemblies. Our numbers have decreased, but we are still dedicated to the principles of our Order. We are getting girls ready for life. We teach them to be strong, effective leaders and caring women. The basic teachings of faith, hope, and charity are as relevant today as they were when Rev W Mark Sexson wrote our beautiful ritual.