Alice Gilliland was one of our first 500 Members that chartered Royal Neighbors of America in 1895. At a time when many women did not work outside the home, she spent nearly 31 years working for the Society.
Alice held many positions at Royal Neighbors. She began as Secretary of Camp number 51 in Quincy, Illinois. Later, she became District Deputy for the State of Illinois, and was appointed to the Office of State Supervising Deputy for Illinois in 1908. Three years later, Alice was elected by the Membership to the Board of Supreme Managers, followed by a 1921 appointment to the Office of State Supervising Deputy for Illinois, which she held for three years.
In 1925, at the 16th session of the Supreme Camp, an annual organizational convention, Alice was voted in as Supreme Oracle. Today, that would be equivalent to our current President and CEO position.
Once elected, Alice didn’t waste any time getting started. Immediately after the adjournment of the Supreme Camp, she held a “school of instruction” for all deputies. In our organization’s magazine, The Royal Neighbor, she was described as “undoubtedly the peer of all of our lady fraternal leaders”.
In the column she wrote in the August 1925 issue, she said, “I deeply appreciate the honor and sincerely express my desire to serve the Society at all times.”
“An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.”
During her tenure as Supreme Oracle, Royal Neighbors built on our health philosophy that “an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.” The Society noted that if the government recognizes the advisability of conservation of forests, why shouldn’t a great big fraternal beneficiary society like our Royal Neighbors recognize the value of our conservation of health? They formed plans to provide ways and means for the promotion of a health conservation campaign.
“Life is our most precious possession – good health is our most valuable asset,” Alice said. “Illness is rarely sent suddenly upon us without warning. Individuals should be taught the value of frequent physical examinations to forestall disease.”
She, along with her colleagues, thought the work to increase the vitality of the Membership would lead to a decrease in the death rate. This would contribute to the strength of our organization but also “no greater humanitarian service could be rendered than to teach the Members of our great fraternity how to prolong life and prevent disease.”
Free health service for our Members
In January 1926, every Member of the Society with mail service had the privilege of free health service that included a chemical and microscopical urinalysis with a report as to her or his physical condition on a yearly basis.
This report was not related to their insurance but was rather a benefit of being a Member.
Within three years, more than 40,000 urinalysis tests were submitted, and more than 1,000 cases of diabetes were discovered. The success of this program led to the creation of the Health Service Department at Royal Neighbors with the desire to prolong lives through prevention.
Her own health
Alice had been in failing health for many months, but she refused to recognize the seriousness of her condition. She was deeply devoted to Royal Neighbors and continued her work to grow the Society and many of her colleagues didn’t even realize she was sick.
She would only hold the role of Supreme Oracle for one year before her untimely death. She left behind a daughter and husband.
Unknowingly, in her last column to the Society, she said, “During the past thirty-one years we have grown to a giant structure. For an organization officered entirely by women, this is a record of which we may be proud. The Royal Neighbors of America is as good as the best and better than all the rest.”
With her foresight to extend life through prevention, she saved many lives through awareness.
Continuing her legacy
We continue Alice’s legacy today to impact the health of our Members through our Member Savings program. Members can access savings on numerous health screenings, prescription savings, and more.
Quotations are from previously published copies of The Royal Neighbor. Copies of featured pages are available upon request.