International Order of Rainbow Girls groups visiting McAlester

·3 min read

Jul. 29—For Belle Brodbeck and her family, traveling from her home in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, to Oklahoma has already been well worth the trip.

While en route to Oklahoma City to attend the 2022 Supreme Assembly of the International Order of the Rainbow for Girls, they decided to stop in McAlester for a special reason.

Since what's now known as the International Order of the Rainbow for Girls started in McAlester 100 years ago, they hoped to tour the organization's International Temple in its McAlester birthplace.

Belle Brodbeck and her family were the first of what is expected to be hundreds of more individuals who will tour the Rainbow Temple on Saturday, July 30, and on Thursday, Aug. 4, as groups attending the Supreme Assembly in Oklahoma City are bused to McAlester to see where it all began.

The Rev. William Mark Sexson organized the group with the name Order of the Rainbow Girls 100 years ago, with the first initiation of 171 girls and young women held April 6, 1922, at the Scottish Rite Temple in McAlester.

Belle, who serves as the Grand Treasurer of Penn Valley #153 Assembly in Pennsylvania, appeared visibly impressed with her tour of the McAlester Temple.

"It's very emotional," she said. "Rainbow Girls has been a big art of my life sine I was 7. It's given me some of my best friends."

With the main activities of the 2022 Supreme Assembly taking place in Oklahoma City, a number of participants are also expected to make the McAlester trip.

Special Projects Director Karen Askew of the McAlester Temple said there are expected to be so many visitors to McAlester that they will rotate where they will be while in the city.

Main activities include a welcome by McAlester Mayor John Browne on Saturday morning at Downtown 312. Some will then eat at the venue, while others will tour the temple and another group is taken on a bus tour of historical sites related to the International Order of Rainbow Girls. They include Oak Hill Cemetery, where Sexson is buried and where there is also a Memorial Walkway, the Freeman Mansion and the Aldridge Hotel, where Sexson lived some of the later years of his life.

Belle and her family caught a flight from Pennsylvania to Dallas, with plans to drive from there to Oklahoma City — after first visiting the Rainbow Temple in McAlester. Temple Executive Director Danyelle Cox and Askew conducted a personal tour of the three-storied facility for Belle and her family, which included up-close and personal viewing of items related to the organization's early history.

Joining Belle in the McAlester Rainbow Temple tour were her mother, Cheryl Brodbeck; her father, John Brodbeck. and Elizabeth Saltzgueber. Cheryl Brodbeck is a past Rainbow Girl, while Saltzburger is a senior Grand Executive of Pennsylvania and Past Mother Advisor of Philadelphia Assembly No. 47.

"It's very interesting," Cheryl Brodbeck said of the McAlester tour. She especially liked the framed photos of past Rainbow Girls and their dresses. "My sisters were both Rainbow Girls," she said.

Saltzgueber also enjoyed the tour and seeing items associated with the organization's history.

"It gives you goose-bumps," she said.

City of McAlester Tourism Director Billy Sumner said the city is looking forward to hosting the visitors, as did Mayor Browne.

Askew said the enthusiasm shown by the Brodbeck family is reflective of others who have toured the facility.

"People are so excited to come here," Askew said. "They see their treasures and all the things they used as Rainbow Girls.

"I think Rev. Sexson had a vision," she said, noting the artistic and spiritual influences behind the Rainbow Temple in McAlester, which is known as Mother Assembly No. 1.

"Some people are really surprised that this started in McAlester," said Askew.

Askew said she and Cox are looking forward to the many visitors the facility is expected to receive and the many tours they will conduct during the Rainbow Girls 100th anniversary.

"It's easy for us," Askew said. "We love Rainbow Girls and we love to show people around."

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.