History

WoodmenLife’s Storied History

On June 6, 1890, Joseph Cullen Root founded WoodmenLife in a small hotel room in downtown Omaha. Root had the simple idea of making life insurance available to everyone.

We’re proud of our fraternal heritage and our long-standing history of financial strength. We're inspired by our founder’s vision of what WoodmenLife could mean to American families, and humbled by the extraordinary organization we’ve grown to be these last 125-plus years.

Here we’d like to share highlights from each decade of WoodmenLife’s history. You can flip through this historical montage in chronological order, or click directly on the decade that interests you the most.

1890s
1891 
First Death Claim

WoodmenLife’s first death claim was paid to the mother of a 19-year-old drowning victim in Niles, Michigan.

1898 

WoodmenLife had more than 88,000 members from all over the country.

1900s
J.M. Taylor

WoodmenLife chapters contributed more than $13,000 to hurricane and tidal wave victims in Galveston, Texas.

1903 

In Jacksonville, Florida, member J.M. Taylor organized the first Boys of Woodcraft unit in 1903.

1910s
1912 
1912 WoodmenLife Tower

A new WoodmenLife building opened at the corner of 14th & Farnam in downtown Omaha and it was the tallest structure between Chicago and the Pacific ocean at the time.

1915 

Membership surpassed 750,000.

1920s
1921 
1920 Home Office Employees

The first cash refunds were paid to members, totaling $1,250,000.

1923 

Radio station WOAW made its first broadcast on April 2nd.

1930s
1934 
1930 Membership List

WoodmenLife Treasurer and U.S. Senator Morris Sheppard sponsored legislation to establish Federal Credit Unions, and Home Office associates received Credit Union Charger No. 16.

WoodmenLife chapters donated more than $160,000 for food clothing, medical supplies, fuel and general relief during the Depression

1940s
1940 
1940 WoodmenLife 50th Anniversary

On June 6, WoodmenLife honored its 50th anniversary with a week-long celebration, including a parade, a service at founder Joseph Cullen Root’s grave and a special network radio program carried by more than 100 stations.

1947 

WoodmenLife’s patriotic program began. Since then, more than 3.5 million American flags have been presented to non-profit and community organizations.

1950s
1953 
1950 City Flag Donation Ceremony

WoodmenLife established an award that still recognizes conservationists and environmentalists to this day.

1958 

The slogan “The Family Fraternity” is adopted.

1960s
1966 
1960 WoodmenLife Tower

WoodmenLife exceeded $1 billion of insurance in force.

1969 

The 30-story WoodmenLife Tower was dedicated.

1970s
1970 
1970 Woodmen Rangers

WoodmenLife reached $2 billion of insurance in force.

1973 

The Catastrophic Illness Benefit was created in 1973, which gave financial assistance to members with leukemia, a brain tumor, lung cancer or tuberculosis. This benefit was retired in 2017.

1980s
1983 
Olympic Flag Presentation

WoodmenLife introduced its Adjustable Life product.

1986 

WoodmenLife’s Adjustable Life product was rated best in the nation by a leading consumer magazine.
WoodmenLife was the first insurer to provide its entire Sales Force with laptop computers.

1990s
1997 
Patriotic Program Anniversary

WoodmenLife celebrated the 50th anniversary of the patriotic program, which in addition to presenting American flags, now includes American History Awards to middle and high school students.

1998 

WoodmenLife and the American Red Cross formed a partnership that led to the creation of more than 1,000 member-led Disaster Action Teams. WoodmenLife donated more than $1 million to the Red Cross in subsequent years.

2001 
9-11 Memorial Ceremony

WoodmenLife responded to the tragic events of September 11 by creating a special tribute called “In Honor and Remembrance”. The memorial ceremony has been performed by thousands of members all over the nation on every 9/11 since. The fifth anniversary of the attacks was observed by two “towers of light” and two flags draped down the sides of the WoodmenLife Tower.

2002 

Members were introduced to Woodmen Financial Services, Inc. (WFS), a subsidiary formed to provide members a wider range of financial products, including mutual funds, variable annuities and college savings plans.

2004 

A second subsidiary, Woodmen Insurance Agency, Inc. (WIA) was formed. WIA was created to provide members outside WoodmenLife offerings, including disability and health insurance, personal insurancelines, and commercial insurance lines.

2010s
2010 

Life insurance in force surpasses $35 billion.

2013 

WoodmenLife powered a nonprofit dedicated to providing fundraising support online.

2015 

Woodmen of the World implements new branding as WoodmenLife, with a new logo and the tagline Standing Strong for Generations.

Our National Community Focus of fighting hunger is introduced. Members of the WoodmenLife family have since held food drives, planted community gardens and stuffed backpacks in their hometowns on an ongoing basis. The effort has resulted in more than 900,000 pounds of food collected and more than $1.4 million raised.

2016 

Our Life’s Perks® program begins offering members of the WoodmenLife family discounts at more than 30,000 national and local retailers.

The WoodmenLife Focus Forward Scholarship Program® launches, offering nearly $1 million in scholarships to colleges, universities and trade schools each year.

2020s
2020 

WoodmenLife launched its Impact online fundraising tool to support local community projects.

A new product, My Choice Indexed Universal Life insurance, offers the potential to grow cash value and protection against market-based losses with a 0% floor.

Throughout our history, WoodmenLife has merged with five other fraternal benefit societies. The last took place in July 2001 when The Neighbors of Woodcraft became part of the WoodmenLife family.

WEB4 - 5/27/2020