Over 130 Years Strong

Our Story

1891 Financial Life:
A Look At Our Evolution

Our story begins in 1891 with a simple act of kindness. It’s a testament to the incredible things that can happen when women come together for a purpose—strong, smart women intent on lifting up and looking out for others. They were kind and courageous, dignified and determined; mothers, sisters, daughters, and friends; trailblazing women who came together as a family, acting in the face of need. Moved by news of the death of a mother of six in their parish, so poor that a collection had to be taken up to pay for her funeral, a group of dedicated women created a Society devoted to offering wisdom, strength, support, and protection.

Notable Women Influencing Change

In this Society for women by women, Elizabeth Rodgers along with 12 other leaders would create Women’s Catholic Order of Foresters. As the High Chief Ranger, Rodgers would serve as the leading force of the Society for the next 17 years. Clearly, she and the other founders did not subscribe to the opinions of the time that the Victorian woman’s life should be devoted to child rearing and domestic labor.

Rodgers and her officers meant business, quite literally, wanting to grow and legally incorporate the Society—even collecting the funds necessary to do so. In 1894, women’s possessions, income, and children were the legal property of their husbands. The founders had to appeal to 10 men to sign the Articles of Incorporation, and the Society was granted a charter by the State of Illinois on January 31, 1894.

A Vision to Serve

From the beginning, Rodgers and the other founders possessed a vision of serving sincerely, communicating clearly, and understanding completely. They traveled across the country organizing groups of members into Courts (now called Impact Teams). They created training, education, and growth opportunities—so rarely available for women then. The mission was to form an organization whose members could not only obtain products and benefits that would help them, and their families achieve financial security, but also to improve the lives of women. Along the way, the founders discovered they could also strengthen entire communities by supporting service projects through the court system that reflected their shared values of integrity, respect, and accountability. So, by 1927 the organization had honed the art of giving back, channeling funds and awards to foster various youth programs. But occasionally, folks just took time out to have a little fun as they did at a 1937 picnic as shown in the timeline above.

Looking Out for Our Members Throughout Time

In the midst of natural and man-made catastrophes, economic panics, epidemics, two world wars, two global pandemics, market crashes, and catastrophic financial depressions, the organization remained strong and weathered through it all. Evolving over the decades, the Society introduced new and enhanced products and benefits that were developed in response to our members’ changing needs. By 1958, membership would include men and boys over age 16, prompting in 1966 the name change to National Catholic Society of Foresters (NCSF).

The 1970’s ushered in change on several fronts. Through a number of various programs, and encouraging a focus on encouraging social involvement, the organization worked to stay in tune and in touch with  members. Supporting women’s success has always been paramount, so we celebrated in 1981 when, for the first time, a NCSF female representative reached $1 million in sales production. The next decade brought improvements in digital efficiency and capabilities. With the arrival of new IBM computers in 1992 and the debut of our web domain in 1999 we stepped into the digital age.

Giving Back Is What We Do

Over the years, the organization has been as much about philanthropy as it is about protection. Through grants, scholarships, charitable programs, and volunteerism at the local and national level, we’ve expanded support to communities even as we’ve empowered people to offer that support in a hands-on, tangible manner that truly feeds the soul. And even when support had to be given from a distance—as in 2020 with COVID-19 funds-matching grants—it has always been given freely and with love.

New Name - Same Values

In 2021, the National Catholic Society of Foresters became 1891 Financial Life. Our new name reflects our modern posture of embracing technology and expanding membership while remaining true to our vision, our values, and our mission. It’s taken the hard work and dedication of the entire 1891 Financial Life family to grow our business to where it stands today, providing financial stability to more than 26,000 members.

We’re blessed to celebrate over 130 years of history that connects us, and the faith that defines us. We’re setting our sights on the next hundred years, finding new ways to protect families and in turn, their communities—one policy at a time.