Can A Woman Be A Freemason?

Freemasons and WomenCan A Woman Be A Freemason?

So can a woman become a Freemason – yes and no.

Here is why – most grand lodges historically are men only and those grand lodges will not allow a woman to go through the 3 degrees to become a Master Mason. But there are certain Grand Lodges where being a Master Mason and woman is okay with them. That is why some grand lodges view others as being irregular in nature. So let’s take a good look at this topic in detail now.

Women That Have Family (or Good Friends) That Are Master Masons

In Freemasonry, as in all other areas of life, women do play an important role. The opportunities for women to participate in Freemasonry are widespread for most grand lodges. They are honored and help the fraternity meet a variety of needs, from social interactions to specific leadership roles in girls youth organizations inside the Freemason Family.

Did you know that there are specific ‘Orders’ for both men and women? Yes, they are called:

  • The Order of the Eastern Star (the largest of these Masonic-related groups) was established in 1855
  • The Order of the Amaranth in 1873
  • The White Shrine of Jerusalem in 1894
  • The Daughters of the Nile
  • The Ladies Oriental Shrine of North America
  • The Daughters of Mokanna
  • The Social Order of Beauceant

These organization meet the unique needs in the “women only” Masonic-related organizations. The moral and ethical values that Freemasonry encourages are universal and not gender-based. It is true that Masonic Lodges maintain a long-standing tradition of restricting membership in Freemasonry to men. This tradition is based on the historical all male membership of stonemasons guilds. During the Middle Ages, men traveled far from home and lived in lodges while constructing great cathedrals throughout Europe. However, in the middle 1800s the fraternity took the progressive step to create ‘women only or coed’ fraternal appendant bodies in Freemasonry. These organizations thus provided an avenue for men and women (husbands and wives; mothers and sons; adult daughters and fathers and so on) could share Masonic fellowship with each other.

Further there are a few regional, national, and international Masonic-related youth organizations are for young women:

  • the International Order of Job’s Daughters, founded in 1920
  • the International Order of Rainbow for Girls, founded in 1922
  • the Order of the Triangles (mainly based in the Northeast of the USA)
  • the Constellation of Junior Stars, located in State of New York, is a nonprofit organization affiliated with freemasonry for young women between the ages of 10 and 21.

These girls or young ladies organizations are involved with local charities, community service concepts, and educational programs. They help teach their members to be good citizens, good leaders, and respectable adult women. This type of youth organization is similar to but not identical to other gender specific groups like the Girl Scouts.  They both offer social and professional growth on one’s gender to fulfill their unique interests and specific needs.

Women That Are Master Masons

Did you know that are a few female-only Grand Lodges? It is true: The Order of Women Freemasons and HFAF – Freemasonry for Women. They both follow exactly the same ceremonies and wear the same regalia as traditional men-only Master Mason Lodges.  Let’s take a closer look at these organizations.

The Order of Women Freemasons – Female Freemasons

The Order of Women Freemasons is the oldest and largest Masonic organization for women in this country and works on the lines of regular male Freemasonry. The United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE), in a statement issued in 1999, acknowledged the sincerity of women’s masonic organization. The UGLE although does do not officially recognize it and their members. Women of any race or faith can join our Order but must be 21 years or older, be of good character and believe in a Supreme Being. Being formed in 1908, they report to have about 4,000 members grouped into over 300 Craft Lodges operating in the UK and overseas. Each lodge is required to meet a minimum of four times a year. And they do call their members by the title of ‘Brother’.

Brief History of The Order of Women Freemasons – Woman Master Masons

Woman Freemasons

The Honorable Fraternity of Antient Masonry (i.e. The Order of Woman Freemasons) was founded on 20 June 1908.  From a beginning with three small Lodges in 1908 they have gradually increased in membership numbers. The members had made its first Grand Master – the Reverend Dr. William Frederick Cobb. Soon after starting in 1912, all future Grand Masters have all been women. The new Order at first included both men and women, but eventually the decision was taken in the early 1920s to restrict entrance to women only. Further, they would no longer admit men as visitors. Therefore by 1935, this Grand Lodge had become an exclusively female organization and they remain so up into the present day. Another Masonic Order for women had been founded in 1913, and to avoid confusion in names we added ‘Order of Women Freemasons’ to our title in 1958. This is the name by which they are known today.   As of 2005, the order became international in its nature with the expansion abroad, in which a Lodge was opened at Fuengirola near Malaga in Spain.

Today they have currently nine Grand Masters or heads of the Order. The Grand Master’s title in their order is “Most Worshipful Brother” and further a Grand Master in their organization can serve a multi year term. Most Worshipful Brother Zuzanka Daniella Penn was installed in 2010 which currently is over a decade holding that position.

 

The Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons – Female Freemasons

The Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons  or HFAF for short is another Grand Lodge based on having women be Master Masons. It is now known as ‘Freemasonry for Women’ and it is a fraternity for women and organized by women. This Grand Lodge was founded in 1913 and membership is open to women of any race or religion, who are able to profess a belief in a Supreme Being. In the United Kingdom, there are single sex fraternities such as this one and mixed masonic fraternities too. Their values and organizational precepts are taught by a series of ceremonies. Currently, they are working in conjunction with United Grand Lodge of England, which they call ‘Masculine Freemasonry’ on an on-going project.

Brief History of HFAF – Woman Master Masons

They wish to have it be noted that Women’s Freemasonry pre-dates both the Women’s Institute founded in 1915 and also the Townswomen’s Guild which started in 1929. This maybe connected to the fact that around 1740, the ” Maçonnerie d’Adoption”, or “Adopted Masonry” was created to “allow the fair sex to take part in charity and philosophy”.    The Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons was founded in 1913 and the first Grand Master was Mrs Elizabeth Boswell-Reid who held that Office for 20 years.

The first three Lodges to be consecrated were ;

  1. Stability No 1
  2. Wisdom No 2 (later to change its name to Fidelity)
  3. Strength No 3

HFAF growth was severely restricted by the outbreak of the World War 1 as voluntary service was needed for the war effort. After in 1916, HFAF established the Higher Degrees with the consecration of the Chapter of Hidden Splendour no 1 of the Holy Royal Arch.  Later in 1932 the Mark (Master) Degree was established when the Keystone Mark Lodge no 1 was consecrated. Soon after, the Rose Croix 18th Degree Rose of Sharon Chapter no 1 in 1935. Followed by the Ark Mariners in 1996 and the Knights Templar Degree in 2001.  HFAF went international when continued its movement in France. It did this in France along the lines of Adoptive Masonry until 1959 when the Grand Loge Féminine de France decided to work the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite. This led to the consecration of further national Grand Lodges in Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Denmark, Turkey, Germany, Canada and the Americas.

“It was in 1902 that the first lodge of Co-Masons was formed in London and that importation from France soon snowballed. But within a few years some of its members became uneasy regarding the course being taken by the governing body in Paris. They felt that their ancient forms were in jeopardy and a departure from their traditional style was taking place; history was being repeated, for it was a similar state that had arisen in regular Freemasonry in the mid-18th century. Various members resigned from the Order and formed themselves into a Society from which was to emerge the Honourable Fraternity of Antient Masonry, but still as an association for men and women. On 5 June 1908 a Grand Lodge was formed with a Reverend Brother as Grand Master. He was the first and only male Grand Master and held that office for four years before retiring through ill health. His successor commenced the continuing line of female Grand Masters. Approximately ten years later it was decided to restrict admission to women only but to allow existing male members to remain. Within a very short period the title was changed to the Order of Women Freemasons but the form of address as ‘Brother’ remained, the term ‘Sister’ having been discontinued soon after the formation in 1908 as it was deemed unfitting for members of a universal Brotherhood of Freemasons. It is also of some interest to note that history was repeated again , in that the Royal Arch became the subject of a division in their ranks, rather on the lines of the Antients and Moderns years before the Union in 1813. A group of its members wished to include the Royal Arch in the system but failed to obtain authority from their Grand Lodge , which caused them to secede and form the first Lodge of yet another Order – The Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons, two Grand Lodges running in parallel was almost a carbon copy performance, but in this case the time for a Union, similar to that which took place in 1813, is yet to come.”  Enid Scott, 1988 – Former Assistant Grand Master

Interesting Facts About Women Freemasons

The first known female speculative Mason was Elizabeth St-Leger, later Mrs. Aldworth, of Cork Ireland, who is said to have been initiated by her father in 1712, after she was caught spying on the Lodge’s proceedings. Here is what we could find about Miss Elizabeth Saint Leger of Cork, Ireland – one evening in or around the year 1710, she hid herself in a room adjoining the Lodge. She removed a brick from the wall of the lodge-room and witnessed an initiation. In leaving, she inadvertently ran into the Tyler who escorted her into the lodge room.  The brethren decided to obligate her, and one story has it that Miss St-Leger ultimately became Master of the Lodge. She even received a Masonic funeral at the time of her death.

Further during the creation of the Grand Lodge of London and the publication of Anderson’s Constitutions in 1723, women were barred from what became known as regular Free-Masonry. Mention is made of a Mrs. Bell, in 1790 in London, and a Mrs. Harvard, in Hereford, in 1770, but these are isolated cases and do not prove the presence of women in Masonic lodges.

A Women’s Lodge did exist briefly in Boston in the 1790’s. Its Worshipful Master, Hannah Mather Crocker (1763-1829) has penned a series of letters on Free-Masonry which were published in Boston in 1815. She claims she had knowledge of the craft because “… in the younger part of life, [she] did investigate some of the principles of Free-Masonry” to assuage the fears of her friends whose husbands were Masons. And she goes on: “I had the honour, some years ago, to preside as Mistress of a similar institution, consisting of females only; we held a regular lodge, founded on the original principles of true ancient freemasonry, so far as was consistent for the female character.” Another document mentions “A short address by the Mistress of St-Ann’s Lodge”.

Womens Grand Lodge of BelgiumThe Women’s Grand Lodge Of Belgium is a Masonic obedience for women only which works in the first three degrees of Freemasonry. The Grande Loge Féminine de France founded its first lodge in Brussels on 20 April 1974, followed by three more in Liège, Brussels and Charleroi. The Women’s Grand Lodge Of Belgium was founded on 17 October 1981.  The three Lodges created by the Women’s Grand Lodge of Belgium. This Grand Lodge hopes to one day form the Women’s Grand Lodge of the United States.  These women’s lodges in the USA are as follows: Universalis in New York City;  Aletheia in Los Angeles; &  Emounah in Washington, DC. It is mentioned on the Alethia website that dues are $240 annually with initiation costs being $500.

WOMEN’S GRAND LODGE OF CALIFORNIA – that’s what the Freemasonry Report has found and its Grand Master is Teresita Arechiga. Not much is known about this Grand Lodge but it has held a conference by a founder of women’s Freemasonry in Huntington Park, California.  They do say that they are an all women Grand Lodge working in the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite.  We have three lodges in the Los Angeles area. LODGE ESTRELLAS DE ISIS #5 in Maywood; LODGE MINERVA #3 in  Maywood; and LODGE GAIA #1 in Santa Monica.

In the 19th Century, Albert Pike, Supreme Commander of Scottish Rite Freemasonry, created a Rite of Adoption based on the French ritual. One of the first women to be initiated in his Lodge of Adoption was the sculptor Vinnie Ream Hoxie.

So what is the Lodge of Adoption? Female Freemasons

The Rite of Adoption was a Masonic rite which appeared in France in the 18th century. Lodges of adoption were usually attached to regular craft lodges, but admitted the female relatives of Freemasons to a mixed lodge with its own ritual. The number of degrees varied over its history, but the first three bore the same names as the craft degrees, although the pass-words and themes of the ritual were quite different.  During the second half of the eighteenth century it was spreading to much of continental Europe. These lodges were declared unconstitutional by the Grand Orient de France (Grand Orient of France) early in the nineteenth century. Then about 100 years later, it revived the female only lodges in the early twentieth century. It was these lodges who later adopted the Freemasonry of their male counterparts, becoming the Grande Loge féminine de France.  The Rite of Adoption is often seen as a prototype for contemporary concordant bodies admitting the wives and daughters of Freemasons, such as the Order of the Eastern Star.

Further, it is different and specific systems of Upper Degree Masonry. These degrees were added to the three symbolic degrees for women. One of these rituals was that of the Queen of Sheba, under the name of “Princess of the Crown”, which was the highest of 10 degrees attested at the end of the 18th century.

Adoptive Masonry was officially sanctioned by the Grand Orient of France on 10 June 1774, which recognized four degrees: Female Apprentice, Craftswoman, Mistress, and Perfect Masoness. In 1817, a fifth degree was added: Female-elect Sublime Scottish Dame. These flourished in France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Poland and Russia. Being always conservative, England refused to recognize them.

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