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The Order of Women Freemasons

Posted by haunt23     Category: The Order of Women Freemasons

The Order of Women Freemasons is a fraternal organisation based in the United Kingdom and is the larger of the two Masonic bodies for women only. Its headquarters is at 27 Pembridge Gardens in London.

The Order was founded in 1908 as the Honourable Fraternity of Antient Masonry, and conceived by a small group of men and women who broke away from the Co-Masonic movement. They disagreed with the theosophical precepts and the governance of the Co-Masonic organisation and wanted to return to the traditional workings of English Masonry. The leader and first Grand Master was W. F. Cobb, Rector of St Ethelburga’s church in the City of London. By the time he resigned from the Order in 1912, six Lodges had been consecrated. The second and all subsequent Grand Masters have been women.

The sanctions of United Grand Lodge of England against any of their members who associated with “irregular bodies” of Freemasons, including those admitting women, meant that there were few male candidates after 1910. In 1920 a petition was sent from the Order to UGLE for recognition as a bona fide Masonic body but this was declined. After that men were no longer accepted as candidates into the Order although there were still a few who, distancing themselves from their own Obedience, chose to remain in high office. In 1935 Peter Slingsby, the male Grand Secretary, died and the remaining male Grand Lodge officer, Deputy Grand Master Peter Birchall, was asked to resign. From this date the Order has been exclusively female. Relations with UGLE are now cordial.

In 1913 a small group who wished to introduce the Holy Royal Arch degree in an unorthodox manner were expelled from the Order and founded their own female Order, the Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasonry.

The degree of the Holy Royal Arch was legitimately introduced in 1929 and the Mark Degree in 1946. Other Higher and Further Degrees including the Chivalric Degrees were introduced in the late 1940s and the 1950s. All these are administered by the same Grand Lodge as the Craft Degrees.

The Honourable Fraternity of Antient Masonry took as its subtitle in 1958 ‘The Order of Women Freemasons’, to make its single-sex nature more obvious, and it is by this name that it is known today.

The Order currently comprises 358 working Craft Lodges, based in the British Isles, Australia, Canada, South Africa, Spain and Zimbabwe. There are over 10,000 members, at last count. The workings and Constitution of the Order parallel those of the United Grand Lodge of England.

The Order has its headquarters at 27 Pembridge Gardens in Notting Hill Gate. The large Grade II listed building (constructed during the mid 19th century in the stuccoed Greek Revival style typical of west London) was donated to the Order by a member in 1924. The property is home to the Grand Temple of the Order and a second, smaller temple.

The Order also operates two residential homes for members, Porchway House in Worthing and Northolme in Lytham St Annes.

Order of the Amaranth

Posted by haunt23     Category: Order of the Amaranth

Order of the Amaranth is a Masonic-affiliated women’s organization founded in 1873. As in the Order of the Eastern Star, members of the Order must be age 18 and older; men must be Master Masons; and women must be related to Masons as wives, mothers, daughters, widows, sisters, nieces, aunts, et cetera, or have been active members of the International Order of the Rainbow for Girls or Job’s Daughters International for more than three years and be recommended by a Master Mason.

Amaranth was founded on Queen Christina of Sweden’s court. Christina had created the “Order of the Amarantha” for the ladies and knights of her court. In 1860, James B. Taylor of Newark, New Jersey drew upon this order to create a new fraternal society. In 1873, Robert Macoy organized Taylor’s society into the Order of the Amaranth, part of a proposed Adoptive Rite of Masonry. Eastern Star was to be the first degree, and until 1921, Amaranth members were required to join Eastern Star first.

In the Order’s teachings, the members are emphatically reminded of their duties to God, to their country and to their fellow beings. They are advocated to portray, by precept and example, their belief in the “Golden Rule” and by conforming to the virtues inherent in TRUTH, FAITH, WISDOM and CHARITY they can prove to others the goodness promulgated by the Order.

Amaranth is organized into Courts, under Grand Courts at the State level. The primary body is called the Supreme Council (which has some subordinate Courts directly under it, as well). Women members of the Order are addressed as “Honored Lady”, while men are referred to as “Sir Knight”.


The officers of a Court are:

  • Royal Matron – presiding officer
  • Royal Patron – enforces the rules of the order
  • Associate Matron – assumes the duties of the Royal Matron in the absence of that officer
  • Associate Patron – assumes the duties of the Royal Patron in the absence of that officer
  • Secretary- takes care the courts business
  • Treasurer- takes care of the courts money
  • Conductress – leads candidates through the degree of the order
  • Associate Conductress – assist the conductress
  • Prelate – leads the Court in prayer
  • Historian – keeps records of the court
  • Marshal in the East – escorts the royal matron, displays the flag of the country
  • Marshal in the West – assist the marshal in the east
  • Musician – provides music for the meetings
  • Truth-
  • Faith-
  • Wisdom-
  • Charity-
  • Standard Bearer – displays the banner of the order
  • Chairman of the Trustees – Revolving Committee a three year term, with a new trustee elected every year.
  • 2 yr Trustee -
  • 3 yr Trustee -
  • Warder – Sits next to the door inside the meeting room, to make sure those that enter the court room are members of the Order.
  • Sentinel – Sits next to the door outside the court room, to make sure those that wish to enter are members of the Order.

The Royal Matron, Royal Patron, Associate Matron, Associate Patron, Secretary, Treasurer, Conductress, Associate Conductress and the Trustees are elected by the members of the Court. All are elected annually with the exception of the Trustees, who serve three year terms. One Trustee is elected each year, with the senior Trustee serving as Chairman. The remaining officers are appointed each year by the Royal Matron-elect prior to installation. The elected officers – excluding Secretary, Treasurer and Trustees – are considered line officers and normally advance to the next office the following year: Associate Conductress becoming Conductress, Conductress becoming Associate Matron and so forth. These advancements are not automatic, however, and are subject to the affirmative vote of the members.

The order’s primary philanthropic project is the Amaranth Diabetes Foundation. Additional projects may be designated by individual Grand jurisdictions and/or the local courts. The flag of the appropriate country is prominently exhibited at all meetings.

Order of the Eastern Star

Posted by haunt23     Category: Order of the Eastern Star

The Order of the Eastern Star is a fraternal organization that both men and women can join. It was established in 1850 by Rob Morris, a lawyer and educator from Boston,  Massachusetts, who had been an official with the Freemasons. It is based on teachings from the Bible, but is open to people of all theistic beliefs. It has approximately 10,000 chapters in twenty countries and approximately 500,000 members under its General Grand Chapter.

Members of the Order are aged 18 and older; men must be Master Masons and women must have specific relationships with Masons. Originally, a woman would have to be the daughter, widow, wife, sister, or mother of a master Mason, but the Order now allows other relativesas well as allowing Job’s Daughters, Rainbow Girls, Members of the Organization of Triangle (NY only) and members of the Constellation of Junior Stars (NY only) to become members when they become of age.

The Order was created by Rob Morris in 1850 when, while confined by illness, he set down the principles of the order in his Rosary of the Eastern Star. By 1855, he had organized a “Supreme Constellation” in New York, which chartered chapters throughout the United States.

In 1866, Dr. Morris started working with Robert Macoy, and handed the Order over to him while Morris was traveling in the Holy Land. Macoy organized the current system of Chapters, and modified Dr. Morris’ Rosary into a Ritual.

On December 1, 1874, Queen Esther Chapter No. 1 became the first Prince Hall Affiliate chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star when it was established in Washington, D.C. by Thornton Andrew Jackson.

The “General Grand Chapter” was formed in Indianapolis, Indiana on November 6, 1876. Committees formed at that time created the Ritual of the Order of the Eastern Star in more or less its current form.
Emblem and heroines
The emblem of the Order is a five-pointed star with the white ray of the star pointing downwards towards the manger. In the Chapter room, the downward-pointing white ray points to the West. The character-building lessons taught in the Order are stories inspired by Biblical figures:

  • Adah (Jephthah’s daughter, from Judges)
  • Ruth, the widow
  • Esther, the wife
  • Martha (sister of Lazarus, from the Gospel of John)
  • Electa (the “elect lady”, from II John), the mother


Officers representing the heroines of the order sit around the altar in the centre of the Chapter Room.

Eastern Star meeting room

There are 18 main officers in a full chapter:

  • Worthy Matron – presiding officer
  • Worthy Patron – a Master Mason who provides general supervision
  • Associate Matron – assumes the duties of the Worthy Matron in the absence of that officer
  • Associate Patron – assumes the duties of the Worthy Patron in the absence of that officer
  • Secretary- takes care of all correspondence and minutes
  • Treasurer- takes care of monies of the Chapter
  • Conductress – Leads visitors and initiations.
  • Associate Conductress – Assists with introductions and handles ballot box.
  • Chaplain – leads the Chapter in prayer
  • Marshal – presents the Flag and leads in all ceremonies
  • Organist- provides music for the meetings
  • Adah – Shares the lesson of Duty of Obedience to the will of God
  • Ruth – Shares the lesson of Honor and Justice
  • Esther – Shares the lesson of Loyalty to Family and Friends
  • Martha – Shares the lesson of Faith and Trust in God and Everlasting Life
  • Electa – Shares the lesson of Charity and Hospitality
  • Warder – Sits next to the door inside the meeting room, to make sure those that enter the chapter room are members of the Order.
  • Sentinel – Sits next to the door outside the chapter room, to make sure those that wish to enter are members of the Order.

Traditionally, a woman who is elected Associate Conductress will the succeeding year be elected to Conductress, then the next year Associate Matron, and the next year Worthy Matron. A man elected Associate Patron will typically the next year be elected Worthy Patron. Usually the woman who is elected to become Associate Matron will let it be known who she wishes to be her Associate Patron, so the next year they will both go to the East together as Worthy Matron and Worthy Patron. There is no male counterpart to the Conductress and Associate Conductress. Only women are allowed to be Matrons, Conductresses, and the Star Points (Adah, Ruth, etc.) and only men can be Patrons.
The International Temple in Washington D.C. Headquarters

The General Grand Chapter headquarters, the International Temple, is situated in the Dupont Circle of Washington, D.C., in the former Perry Belmont Mansion. The mansion was constructed in 1909 for the purpose of entertaining the guests of Perry Belmont. In 1919 this included Britain’s Prince of Wales. General Grand Chapter purchased the building in 1935. The secretary of General Grand Chapter resides there while serving his or her term of office. The mansion features works of art from around the world, most of which were donated as gifts from various international Eastern Star chapters.

The Order has a charitable foundation  and from 1986-2001 contributed $513,147 to Alzheimer’s disease research, juvenile diabetes research, and juvenile asthma research. It also provides bursaries to students of theology and religious music, as well as other scholarships that differ by jurisdiction. In 2000 over $83,000 was donated. Many jurisdictions support a Masonic and/or Eastern Star retirement center or nursing home for older members; some homes are also open to the public. The Elizabeth Bentley OES Scholarship Fund was initiated in 1947.

Sabina von Steinbach

Posted by haunt23     Category: Sabina von Steinbach

Sabina von Steinbach was, according to legend, a female stonemason living in Alsace (in what is now eastern France) during the 13th century. She is said to have been the daughter of Erwin von Steinbach, architect and master builder at Notre-Dame de Strasbourg, the cathedral in Strasbourg. When after her father’s death her brother Johann continued to build the cathedral tower from 1318 to 1339, Sabina is thought to have been employed as a skilful mason and sculptor in its completion.

Sabina is traditionally believed responsible for the statues personifying the Church and the Synagogue (both 13th century), which are situated near the south portals of the cathedral.
The tradition of Sabina as a mason in Strasbourg, constantly cited, appears to have been first published in 1617 by Schadeus in his description of Strasbourg Cathedral. This understanding may have derived from the interpretation of a now misplaced Latin inscription on a scroll held by the figure of St. John. It translated: “Thanks to the piety of this woman, Sabina, who has given me form from this hard stone.”

Women were allowed in to membership in the majority of the medieval craft guilds, but membership in a guild did not convey with it the right of being apprenticed, although it implied that a female member might share in all its benefits, pious and pecuniary, and in the event of her husband’s death (he being a master) might continue his trade. This was easily done with the help of a managing journeyman and it is well known that provision was made for the journeyman’s promptly acquiring the master’s rights by marrying such a widow. Stonemasons often journeyed to distant sites for work that might be decades in construction and would of course have taken their wives and children with them.

Von Steinbach’s employment of his daughter Sabina among the Strasbourg stonemasons was not merely an abnormality committed by a provincial lodge, lax in the proper guild observances. Until the capture of the city by France in 1681, the headquarters of the German stonemasons was in Strasbourg (even as late as 1760 the Strasbourg lodge still claimed tribute from the lodges of Germany). Indeed, American historian Albert Mackey, in his Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, cites the theory “which places the organization of the Order of Freemasonry at the building of the Cathedral of Strasbourg, in the year 1275.”

Some argue that Sabina took over the contract on her father’s job at Strasbourg after the master builder died and brought it to completion. Others maintain that she merely assisted her father. Still others maintain that Sabina completed the cathedral by herself, aided by “magic,” when other stonemasons declined to work with her.

The Honorable Elizabeth Aldworth

Posted by haunt23     Category: The Honorable Elizabeth Aldworth

The Honorable Elizabeth Aldworth (1693/95 -1773/1775), born the Hon. Elizabeth St. Leger, was known as “The Lady Freemason”, the only woman ever recorded to be initiated into Regular Freemasonry.

Aldworth was the daughter of Arthur St. Leger, 1st Viscount Doneraile and 1st Baron Kilmayden of Doneraile Court, County Cork, Ireland. She was married in 1713 to Richard Aldworth, Esq. Nothing else of her life is known between her initiation into Freemasonry as a young girl and her death almost sixty years later.

The actual date of her initiation into Freemasonry is unsure, but the Memoir of a Lady Freemason suggests that it was between 1710-1712, which was before her marriage. In his paper in Ars Quatuor Coronatorum in 1895, Edward Conder states that it was sometime between 1710-1718. In answer to the paper, Masonic scholar William James Hughan stated: “Until Bro. Conder’s investigations we had all presumed that the various reports concerning the initiation of the Hon. Elizabeth St. Leger, though not always in agreement, were correct as to the event being of a later date than 1730.” Hughan also found the facts related to contradict the statements made by an Aldworth descendant.

Those facts are determined in the Memoir, extracted from the records of the First Lodge of Ireland, which state that Arundel Hill was present at the initiation and often sat in Lodge with her. The Memoir’s editor also indicates that Conder’s work was the first making of the date, which as of 1864 was not acknowledged.

Conder also puts forward that the specific Lodge in which she was initiated, while generally thought at the time of his research to be known, is also unknown, but that it may have been a private Lodge warranted out of London by her father.Conder also seems to be refuting an unelaborated-upon statement that Aldworth was initiated after the formation of the Grand Lodge of Ireland. He indicates that since the Viscount died in 1727, she could not have been initiated subsequently, and at that time it seems that the commonly accepted date of formation of the Grand Lodge was 1729-30. It is now taken to be 1725.

The tradition of Aldworth’s initiation is that Aldworth had fallen asleep in the library while reading on a bleak winter evening, the library which was located next to the room in which the Lodge was meeting. She was woken by the voices she heard next door, and the light shining through the loose brickwork. She removed some of the bricks and watched the proceedings. when she comprehended the solemnity of the proceedings, she wanted to retreat, but was discovered by the Lodge Tyler, who was also the family butler. Realizing her quandary, she screamed and fainted. The Tyler summoned the Brethren (among them her father), and they eventually decided to initiate her into the Lodge.

In the answer to Conder’s presentation, a Bro. Rylands suggested that “there was no evidence forthcoming” that Aldworth served as Master of a Lodge, or that she attended on a regular basis. Elizabeth Aldworth died in 1775. There was a plaque erected at the new St. Finbarre’s Cathedral by the Masons of Cork, which reads:

1775 Burial in Saint Finbarre’s Cathedral

In Pious Memory of

The Honorable
Wife of
Of Newmarket Court, Co. Cork, Esq.,
Daughter of
Her Remains Lie Close to This Spot.
Born 1695, Died 1775.
Initiated into Masonry in
Lodge No. 44, at Doneraile Court

In this County, A.D. 1712.


Posted by haunt23     Category: Co-Freemasonry

The organised admission of women into International Co-Freemasonry began in France in 1882 with the initiation of Maria Deraismes into the Loge Libre Penseurs (Freethinkers Lodge), under the Grande Loge Symbolique de France. In 1893, along with activist Georges Martin, Maria Deraismes oversaw the initiation of sixteen women into the first Lodge in the world to have both men and women as members, from inception, creating the jurisdiction Le Droit Humain (LDH) Again, these are considered by “Regular” Freemasonry as irregular bodies.

Le Droit Humain and a number of other “irregular” masonic organisations have a presence in North America which are open to women either in an androgynous or wholly feminine manner. These orders act upon similar rituals to regular Freemasonry and their work contains similar moral and philosophical content to regular freemasonry.

In the Netherlands, there is a entirely separate, although Masonically allied, sorority for women, the Order of Weavers (OOW), which uses symbols from weaving rather than stonemasonry.

The rite of adoption for female lodges originated in France. The Grand Orient of France and other Masonic bodies in the Continental European tradition fully recognize Co-Freemasonry and women’s Freemasonry.

Women as Operative Masons

Posted by haunt23     Category: Women as Operative Masons

It is not commonly known, but researchers have shown that records do exist which corroborate that women were in fact operative masons, and even presided over Lodges of Operative Masons.

The Regius Manuscript, dating from about 1390, is the oldest manuscript as yet discovered pertaining to Masonry. Two extracts are of specific interest:

Yn that onest craft to be parfytte; And so uchon schulle techyn othur, And love together as sister and brother In that honest craft to be perfect; And so each one shall teach the other, And love together as sister and brother. Articulus decimus. The thenthe artycul ys for to knowe, Amongst the craft, to hye and lowe, There schal no mayster supplante other, But be togeder as systur and brother, Yn that curyus craft, alle and som, That longuth to a maystur mason. Tenth article. The tenth article is for to know, Among the craft, to high and low, There shall no master supplant another, But be together as sister and brother, In this curious craft, all and some, that belongeth to a master mason.However, it should be noted that not everyone agrees with these interpretations of the Regius Manuscript. The following examples were recorded by Enid Scott in her pamphlet, “Women and Freemasonry:”

It is on record that a female mason was responsible for the carving of the porch on the tower of Strasbourg Cathedral. It was commenced in 1277 by the Architect, Erwin of Steinbach, and his daughter Sabina, who was a skilful mason, accomplished this part of the work herself In the records of Corpus Christi Guild at York, it is noted in 1408 that an apprentice had to swear to obey “the Master, or Dame, or any other Freemason.” Women members were recorded in the Masons’ Company in the 17th century as being non-operative.

Of course at this time ‘non-operative’ meant not being engaged in the physical work, but acting in the capacity of accepting orders for assignments, and not what we would now refer to as ‘speculative masonry’. Such women were called ‘Dames’ to differentiate them from Master Masons. Margaret Wild, a mason’s widow, was such a one and was made a member of the Masons’ Company in 1663 A minute dated 16th April 1683, from the Lodge of Edinburgh refers to agreement that a widow may, with the assistance of a competent freeman, receive the benefit of any orders which may be offered her by customers of her late husband, such freeman being forbidden from accepting any share of the profits from such assignments.

One day later on 17th April, the records of St Mary’s Chapel Lodge give an instance of the legality of a female occupying the position of ‘Dame’ or ‘Mistress in a masonic sense. But it was only to a very restricted extent that widows of master masons could profit by the privilege. From the manuscripts which make up the Old Charges, the York MS no 4(Grand Lodge of York) dated 1693 denotes to the “Apprentice charge” and instructs that, “One of the elders taking the Booke and hee or shee that is to be made mason, shall lay their hands thereon, and the charge shall be given”. Of course this has been challenged by some masonic historians who claim that the “shee” is a mistranslation of “they”, but others including the Rev. A. F. A. Woodford, accept it as evidence of the admission of females into masonic fellowship, especially as many of the other guilds at this time were constituted of women as well as men. The Masons’ Court Book records the names of two widows in 1696.

In 1713-14, we find the curious case of Mary Bannister, the daughter of a Barking barber, being appointed to a mason for a term of seven years, the fee of five shillings having been paid to the Company.

Several instances of male apprentices being assigned to work under female masters during the period 1713-1715 appear in the records of the “Worshipful Company of Masons” in MS 5984 of the Guildhall Library in London.
It should be considered that these instances occurred before the formation of the first Grand Lodge in London in 1717. In 1723 the Rev. James Anderson was given the task of issuing a set of Constitutions, which were revised in 1738, when he introduced the idea that women were prohibited from becoming masons

Female Masons in Regular Masonic Bodies

Posted by haunt23     Category: freemasonry

There have been a few reported cases of a woman being admitted to a regular masonic lodge. These cases are rare and are debated by masonic historians.

Elizabeth Aldworth: The one documented account of a woman being admitted to Freemasonry in the 18th century is the case of Elizabeth Aldworth (born St Leger), who is reported to have surreptitiously watched the proceedings of a Lodge meeting held at Doneraile House, the private house of her father, first Viscount Doneraile, a resident of Doneraile, County Cork, Ireland.

Upon discovering the breach of their secrecy, the Lodge resolved to admit and oblige her, and thereafterwith pride she appeared in public in Masonic clothing. In the early part of the 18th century, it was quite habitual for Lodges to be held in private houses. This Lodge was duly warranted as Lodge number 150 on the register of the Grand Lodge of Ireland.

Justification for exclusion

Posted by haunt23     Category: freemasonry

Mainstream Masonic Grand Lodges rationalize the exclusion of women from Freemasonry for various rationalities. The structure and customs of modern day Freemasonry is founded from the operative medieval stonemasons of Europe. These operative masonic guilds did not permit women to join, because of the culture of the time. Many Grand Lodges are of the opinion that changing this structure would entirely change Freemasonry.

What is more, mainstream Grand Lodges stick to the masonic landmarks represented in the early 18th century, which are considered to be unchangeable. One of these landmarks determines that a woman is not to be made a mason.

Finally, in many jurisdictions masons swear “not to be present at the making of a woman a Mason” in their obligations. A lot of masons believe that irrespective of their opinions of women in masonry, they cannot break their obligation.

Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons

Posted by haunt23     Category: Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons

The history of the Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons in particular cannot be represented without regard to the history of the Women’s movement in Masonry in general. Quoted from a pamphlet published in 1988 by Enid Scott, a former Assistant Grand Master of the Order, entitled “Women in Freemasonry:”

“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.”

The Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons was founded in 1913 and the first Grand Master was Mrs Elizabeth Boswell-Reid who held that Office from 1913 to 1933; she was succeeded by her daughter Mrs Seton Challen.