- Women and Freemasonry
The subject of women and Freemasonry is complex and without an easy explanation. Traditionally, only men can be made Freemasons in "Regular" FreemasonryFact|date=December 2007. Many Grand Lodges do not admit women because they believe it would break the ancient
Masonic LandmarksFact|date=December 2007. However, there are many non-mainstream Masonic bodies that do admit both men and women or exclusively women. Furthermore, there are many female orders associated with regular Freemasonry, primarily the Order of Women Freemasonsat 27, Pembridge Gardens, London, NW2 and others such as the Order of the Eastern Star, the Order of the Amaranth, the White Shrine of Jerusalem, the Social Order of Beauceant and the Daughters of the Nile.
United Grand Lodge of England(UGLE), and others concordant in that "regular" tradition, do not formally recognize any Masonic body that accepts women. The UGLE has stated since 1998 that two English women's jurisdictions are regular in practice, except for their inclusion of women, and has indicated that, while not formally recognized, these bodies may be regarded as part of Freemasonry, when describing Freemasonry in general. In North America, women cannot become regular Freemasons "per se," but rather join associated separate bodies, which are not Masonic in their content. These offer an extended social network around the Lodge and includes the Order of the Eastern Star, created in the United States in the mid-19th Century for adult close female relatives of Masons, and Rainbow Girls and Job's Daughters, both for girls.
Justification for exclusion
Mainstream Masonic Grand Lodges justify the exclusion of women from Freemasonry for several reasons. The structure and traditions of modern day Freemasonry is based from the operative medieval stonemasons of Europe. These operative masonic guilds did not allow women to join, because of the culture of the time. Many Grand Lodges purpose that altering this structure would completely change freemasonry. Furthermore, mainstream Grand Lodges adhere to the masonic landmarks laid out in the early 18th century and are deemed unchangeable. One of these landmarks specify that women are not to be made a mason. Finally, mainstream masons swear "not to be present at the making of a woman a Mason" in their obligations. [ [http://www.masonicinfo.com/women.htm] accessed Aug 15, 2006] Many masons believe that regardless of their opinions of women in masonry, they can not break their obligation.
Female Masons in Regular Masonic Bodies
There have been a few reported cases of a woman joining a regular masonic lodge. These cases are exceptions and are debated by masonic historians.
One 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 viewed the proceedings of a Lodge meeting held at Doneraile House — the private house of her father, first ViscountDoneraile — a resident of Doneraile, County Cork, Ireland. Upon discovering the breach of their secrecy, the Lodge resolved to admit and obligate her, and thereafter she proudly appeared in public in Masonic clothing. [http://freemasonry.bcy.ca/aqc/aldworth.html The Hon. Miss St Leger and Freemasonry] Ars Quatuor Coronatorum vol viii (1895) pp. 16-23, 53-6. vol. xviii (1905) pp. 46] In the early part of the 18th century, it was quite customary 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.
The systematic admission of women into International Co-Freemasonry began in
Francein 1882 with the initiation of Maria Deraismesinto the Loge Libre Penseurs (Freethinkers Lodge), under the Grande Loge Symbolique de FranceFact|date=December 2007. 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)Fact|date=December 2007. Again, these are regarded 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 work similar rituals to regular Freemasonry and their work contains similar moral and philosophical content to regular freemasonry.
Netherlands, there is a completely separate, although Masonically allied, sorority for women, the Order of Weavers (OOW), which uses symbols from weaving rather than stonemasonryFact|date=December 2007.
rite of adoptionfor female lodges originated in France. The Grand Orient of Franceand other Masonic bodies in the Continental European tradition fully recognize Co-Freemasonry and women's Freemasonry.
List of Masonic Grand Lodges
* [http://www.archive.org/details/compasssquarefor00hendrich "The Compass and Square: For Women Only (1916)"] by Harriet L. Montgomery Henderson (of the Women's Order of Esoteric Masonry)
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