These guilds were set up to protect and care for their members at a time when there was no welfare state, trade unions or universal health care.Various secret signs and handshakes were created to serve as proof of their membership allowing them to visit guilds in distant places that are associated with the guild they belong.With alumni members; who have previously been active but graduated at an earlier time, connections offered by them are endless.Depending on the individuals interest and common goals; Networking is a big part of the different types of Fraternities (ex: Social, Business, Religious, etc.).Today, connotations of fraternities vary according to context including companionships and brotherhoods dedicated to the religious, intellectual, academic, physical or social pursuits of its members.Additionally, in modern times, it sometimes connotes a secret society especially regarding freemasonry, odd fellows, various academic and student societies.Over the next 300 years or so, the idea of "ordinary" people joining together to improve their situation met with varying degrees of opposition (and persecution) from "People in Power", depending on whether they were seen as a source of revenue (taxes) or a threat to their power.When Henry VIII broke from the Roman Catholic Church, he viewed the guilds as supporters of the Pope, and in 1545 expropriated them.
The only true distinction between a fraternity and any other form of social organizations is the implication that the members are freely associated as equals for a mutually beneficial purpose rather than because of a religious, governmental, commercial, or familial bond - although there are fraternities dedicated to each of these fields of association.
There are known fraternal organizations which existed as far back as ancient Greece and in the Mithraic Mysteries of ancient Rome.
Analogous institutions developed in the late medieval period called confraternities, which were lay organizations allied to the Catholic Church.
The development of modern fraternal orders was especially dynamic in the United States, where the freedom to associate outside governmental regulation is expressly sanctioned in law.
There have been hundreds of fraternal organizations in the United States, and at the beginning of the 20th century the number of memberships equaled the number of adult males.