Elks, Benevolent and Protective Order of, fraternal and charitable society founded (1868) in New York City. Through the Elks National Foundation, located in Chicago, the group carries on a broad-ranging program of charity and welfare, giving to such organizations as the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, and the Boy and Girl Scouts. The Elks also sponsors health, veterans, and college scholarship programs, as well as various local community service activities. The organization has about 1.3 million members in more than 2,200 local lodges. Its official Elks Magazine, is published monthly. Membership in the society, originally limited to white males, was opened to all male U.S. citizens in 1973 and to women, who had previously belonged only to lodge auxiliaries, in 1995.
See M. Carnes, Secret Ritual and Manhood in Victorian America (1989).