History of FCSLA: 1892 to Present
Rev. Stephen Furdek
Even today, the drill teams
of the 1930s and 40s are recalled with fond memories as one of the
Society's most rewarding activities.
Officially organized in
Cleveland on July 11, 1934 by Joseph Matuscak, the teams sought to
engage younger members in the philosophy and work of the Society. The
first team had 88 Senior Order ladies who sported the bright, military-style
uniforms. And by 1937, 500 girls competed in the first national FCSLU
drill team at the St. Louis Convention.
The drill teams were a
bright promise for the future of the organization. By 1942, about 3,000
young ladies belonged to the 32 Senior Order and 23 Junior Order teams.
In that year, 770 girls highlighted the Society's 50th anniversary
celebration in Cleveland by competing in the third national meet.
A sense of post-war apathy
led to the ending of the program in 1948.
At a time when women were almost considered second class citizens, nine Slovak
immigrant homemakers, under the leadership of Mrs. Anna Hurban of Cleveland,
Ohio, began laying the foundation for a fraternal benefit society...the
First Catholic Slovak Ladies Union (FCSLU). These women realized there had
provisions made for death and injury benefits that would protect families
from the hazards and toll of industrial labor. With the encouragement of
Father Stephen Furdek, Mrs. Hurban assembled eight other Slovak women on
January 1, 1892 at St. Ladislaus Church in Cleveland.
Many members were recruited over the next few months, fifteen of whom wrote
a set of bylaws and chose St. Anne as their patroness. By year end, the
organization had grown from $77 in assets and 9 members to $212 in assets and
By 1899, the Society had 1,859 members who paid 14 cents a month at any
of 83 branches. But to attract even more people, a legal residence had
established. On October 29, 1899 the FCSLU charter paper was filed and
recorded by the Ohio
Secretary of State. This charter allowed the Society to function under
Ohio's fraternal code and gave the Society domiciled status. From 1893
assets averaged an 86 percent increase biennially.
But in 1918, a flu epidemic claimed the lives of many FCSLU members.
Fearing bankruptcy, the delegation decided to start from scratch and
elect a new
administration. The new servants set off to restore the confidence
of the 30,000 members who
were insured for $27 million. A new table of rates was put into effect
in 1923, prompting 3,000 members to withdraw their membership. But
by 1926, the undesirable
effects of the rerating had passed, and Society was able to claim assets
of $4.2 million.
In honor of the Society's 35th birthday in 1927 a celebration was held
in Cleveland with about 8,000 members, dignitaries and friends attending
a 6,000 person parade through the streets of downtown Cleveland!
Mrs. Hurban herself was in attendance, and a ceremony was held in her honor.
Mrs. Hurban died in Cleveland the following year. Records show that
was the largest ever held in Cleveland up to that time.
For efficiency purposes, it was decided that the records
and business transactions should be moved out of private
and into a central
office. To that
end, on December 10, 1929, the cornerstone of the first
home office was laid and
blessed. The 4-story brick structure was completed
on July 5 of the following year.
The 1930s saw a lot of activity within FCSLA. To deal
with the Great Depression, waivers amounting to about
a year were
to destitute families
that had Junior Order members. On June 19, 1933,
President Frances Jakabcin died unexpectedly at the age of 60.
Known as the "savior of FCSLU," Mrs.
Jakabcin had acquired a reputation of being a very
forceful leader, and her term of office is now recognized
as the highest step
forward for the Society.
Mrs. Jakabcin was replaced by Helen Kocan, who led
the $34 million insurance company through the trying
In 1942, the Society celebrated 50 years of fraternal
service with $12 million in assets and 65,000 members.
in 1945, and 1947 saw the beginning of one of the
more popular convention events; the Pageant. This
honored the highest
sellers in both the
junior and senior departments. The winners were
escorted through the audience onto a stage and presented with
a gift. The
years, and top recommenders are still honored in
a similar fashion.
One might say the decade of the 50s brought some
significant long-range changes for the Society,
namely the Slovak-American
plans for a new home
office and home for the aged, and the onset of
a scholarship program. In 1954, the Society increased
$1.15 million, the largest
previous year. It also added 1,656 members, 75%
whom joined the Junior Order.
When President Kocan died at the age of 78 on April
1, 1964, this remarkable executive and great
religious leader was
replaced by Mrs.
Elizabeth Lipovsky. Mrs. Lipovsky's promotion
techniques ushered increased sales
efforts and improved relationships with the youth.
Under her leadership, the first
term plan of insurance was put into effect to
entice members to enroll their young children, and a three-year
campaign was launched
of the Society's 75th anniversary. This campaign
resulted in an
increase of $4.2 million of new insurance. In
the late 1960s,
name was changed
to the First Catholic Ladies Slovak Association.
This change was made to avoid confusion in banking
using "union." The
60s also brought several mergers to the Society,
including the Slovak Catholic Cadets Union, the
of Cleveland, and the
Catholic Slovak Brotherhood from Braddock, Pennsylvania.
For FCSLA, the 1970s would become a stepping
stone to an era of change and progress. As
part of a
revitalization effort, branch
officers for the first time were given the
attending regional seminars.
A drive to revive then Junior Order led to
three Youth Congresses that were
held to inspire youth with pride in their heritage
enthusiasm for their membership in FCSLA. This
emphasis on youth led
a policy decreeing
national officers must retire by 70 years of
age. In later years, by-laws were written to
President Lipovsky retired in 1975, handing
over the reigns to Ms. Louise Yash who would
term of office,
the Association's assets reached $80 million
and insurance in force to more than $236 million.
The 75th anniversary of Junior Order was commemorated
in 1980. This year also marked the beginning
of a decade in
to new heights.
For the first time in the Society's history,
three recommenders were honored for selling
$1,000,000 of insurance in one
When President Yash retired in 1983, Ms. Anna
S. Granchay stepped into the role. Ms. Granchay
Association when it entered into the annuity
market in 1989. With no medical requirements
and no age limit, the annuities have proven
to be an excellent investment and membership
One might say the second hundred years for
the Association started with a BANG. Fireworks,
the Slovak nation
and in the
true Slovak, for on January 1, 1993, the
establishment of an independent and democratic Slovak Republic
came into existence.
As FCSLA entered its second century of operation,
its new leadership brought with it a new
with President Mary
Ann S. Johanek at the helm, FCSLA introduced
multi-media marketing campaign. Its very
first initiative comes to you
today as you browse
our website. Other market initiatives include
Product Sales Seminars, Product
and a Corporate Product Sales Video.
Changes in the association's corporate structure
has allowed FCSLA to strengthen its competitive
position in the fraternal
market. First, there
was the formation of an internal National
Accounting/Finance Department, headed
by National Treasurer, John M. Janovec. Having
the accounting and financial functions in-house
to make on-going
decisions and real-time adjustments to provide
FCSLA with a productive and secure
investment portfolio. Second, was the formation
of an internal Marketing Department.
With a focus on membership trends, the association
strives to continue to provide
the right products and services to its members.
To support these corporate changes, FCSLA invested in technological enhancements. Headed
Secretary Irene J. Drotleff,
the National staff completed
a re-engineering effort to gain efficiencies
in operations. This effort is on-going, using
as an operational
Not all changes have been internal. FCSLA has expanded its influence by joining with
in sponsoring joint events, contributions,
To the new FCSLA
.securing the future, one member
at a time.