North American Italian fraternal societies were based on Italian models perhaps the earliest of which was the Associazione Operaia di Mutuo Soccorso Giuseppe Garibaldi di Macerata (Association of Workers for Mutual Support), established in 1862.
As early as May 1905, Fernie had “an Italian Labor Circle,” which supported local miners. It was incorporated as the Societa Felice Cavalotti, Loggia No. 146 on September 9, 1913 under the Federazione Colombiana della Societa Italo-Americane (Colombian Federation of the Italo-American Society), established in 1893 in Chicago.
Eventually, BC and Alberta lodges separated from this parent organization and set up the Ordine Indipende Fior d’Italia (Independent Order Flower of Italy). The Fernie Grand Lodge was allied with other lodges from the Elk Valley to Lethbridge, Alberta. Members paid dues to access benefits and families were given $100 in case of death.
The existence of a woman’s lodge in Fernie – the Speranza d’Italia, Loggia No. 101 – is significant. In the 1901 census, only five Italian women were listed; by 1911, there were 60 women; by 1921, 223 (in contrast to 291 men).
The establishment of a lodge acknowledged that women had become a prominent part of Fernie’s Italian community. The lodge’s name – Speranza d’Italia (Hope of Italy) – suggests the elevated position that women had come to hold in Italian Society.