Many historians trace its origins from Trade Unions that emerged in England in the 1500's to 1700's. The name came from the fact that in smaller towns and villages there were insufficient number of Fellows to form a local guild. In these circumstances, fellow workers from an "odd" assortment of trades gathered together and formed a union. These guilds were set up to protect and care for their members and their families at a time when there was no welfare state, trade unions or National Health Service.
In 1688 England, when the Catholic King James II was deposed in favor of the Dutch Protestant William of Orange, the organization split into two factions, the "Patriotic Order of Odd fellows" (based in the south of England and supporting William) and the " " (based in the north and favoring the Stuarts).
In 1789, the two factions formed a partial amalgamation as the "Union Order", now known as "Grand United Order of Oddfellows", abandoning all political and religious disputes and committing itself to promoting the harmony and welfare of its members.
While several unofficial lodges had existed in New York City before, because of the charter relationship, American Odd Fellowship is regarded as being founded in Baltimore at the Seven Stars Tavern , 1819, by Thomas Wildey and some associates who were members of the fraternity in England.
On September 20, 1851, I.O.O.F became the first fraternity to accept both men and women when it formed the Daughters of Rebekah. Schuyler Colfax, (Vice President of the United States (1869-1873) under President Ulysses S. Grant), was the force behind the movement. Though the term sorority was not yet coined in this year, it may be considered that the Rebekah is the first and oldest sorority in the world.