Ah, a topic close to my heart, women and masonry. Get comfy, this one might be a long one.
So, women can’t be masons, right?
Yes and no.
Lets start with the latter. No, women cannot join the (Ancient Free) and Accepted Masons, aka Blue Lodge, aka lodge, aka, the stepping stone of Scottish Rite, Shriners, and at least 30 other appendant bodies. Yes, I know. Let me share my perspective on the matter.
When I first met my boyfriend, and found out that he was a mason, my first reaction was to be jealous that I could not join, and be offended at the blatant sexism that was happening in an organization that he is so involved in. I snooped around, trying to find some loophole or backdoor that would let me into the secret boys club. You see, I am a geek, and I tend to be the token female in many of my geek circles. Being shut out from the boys and having to “earn” my way into the level of acceptance that they hold each other to has been going on for years in my life. So, I was used to this, in a way, but not used to being 100% shut out, with absolutely no way in.
As my relationship grew, so did my level of involvement in the lodge. I began cooking meals for degree nights, helping the other women in the kitchen, cleaning up after family meals, going to the Shrine bar after lodge to drink with the boys, going on DeMolay outings, and more. My boyfriend recognized the level of interest I hold, and suggested I look into joining the Order of the Eastern Star.In a way, this was like finding out that I could not become a mason all over again. Women and men can join OES, and they are preceded over by a Worthy Matron and Patron. I again, found it rather sexist, but I was too interested to not look into it.
During all of this time, I was discussing all of these feelings with T. He is terribly understanding about it all, but we kind of came to a mutual conclusion. It is healthy for partners in a relationship to have time apart, and masonry became very popular when far less women were independent in their own right. So while I may find some of the traditions to be sexist, it is still just that, tradition, something old. Perhaps our grandparents were onto something?
As for the yes- yes, women can join masonry. There are lodges that are referred to as irregular, clandestine, or co-masonic. Women can join these lodges, and can become a Perfect Masoness (the lodge’s equivalent of a MM). I cannot claim to know much about co-masonry. I do know, however, that it was originated in France, under the name Le Droit Humain, The International Order of Mixed Freemasonry. It has lodges in over 60 countries, and is continues to be fairly popular in Europe, especially France and Belgium. Today there are a number of organizations that run co-masonic lodges, including Le Droit Humain, The Eastern Order of International Co-Freemasonry, and The Co-Freemasonic Order of the Blazing Star. It can be very confusing trying to find locations of co-masonic lodges due to all of the different groups that run them. There are a number in England, and of course France, Belgium, and the rest of Europe. Those in the United States, however, tend to be in larger coastal cities. If you would like more information, this website has all of the links for every co-masonic, or women’s only lodges.
Before you run off to join a co-masonic lodge, I suggest that you stop and think about this. If your boyfriend, your husband, your SO, or even just a friend is a mason, a member of a blue lodge chartered by a regular Grand Lodge in your state or country, he is not allowed to discuss secret masonic work with you, even if you become a master mason (or equivalent). This is because regular, or mainstream lodges do not recognize lodges that accept women as members, solely because of that reason. This is not to say that you can no longer discuss masonry with him. Quite the contrary really, as many regular (“masculine”? saying regular just seems weird) lodges will invite co-masonic lodges for discussion, and there can be fellowship between the two lodges. However, if you are a member of a co-masonic lodge, and your SO is a member of a masculine (I think I like that better) lodge, you cannot attend regular meetings at his lodge. I am not sure if he is able to attend yours.
If you are thinking about joining a co-masonic lodge, do your homework!!! There are a number of “scam” lodges that exist, only there to take your money and give you a shiny title in exchange. If you are a member of a co-masonic lodge, please contact me! I would love to chat with someone that is an active member and get their perspective.
There are some unspoken hostilities between masculine and co-masonic lodges, some for good reasons, and some… The best thing I could find on the topic came from the United Grand Lodge of England (commonly referred to as UGLE),
Brethren are therefore free to explain to non-Masons, if asked, that Freemasonry is not confined to men (even though this Grand Lodge does not itself admit women)
So, what can I join?
There are a number of organizations that you can join that will get you more involved with masonry, that are associated with masculine lodges. Unless noted, you must be 18, and related to a MM. When they say related, it basically means, if you want to join, you will find the relation. I joined OES due to my great-grandfather whom I never met.
- OES, or Order of the Eastern Star, probably the most widespread organization. I will be doing a more in depth post on this organization later, but I will tell you right off the bat, that it is open to women related to Master Masons, as well as Master Masons themselves. It tends to have a very negative reputation, but as a member myself, I enjoy it a good bit. You can also join if you were a Rainbow Girl, or in Job’s Daughters.
- Order of the Amarath– Similar to OES, in fact, it used to be that you had to join OES before you could become a member of OA. Again, this is open to women related to MM and MM themselves.
- Ladies’ Oriental Shrine of North America– Far less prevalent, these are the “lady Shriners”. Only women can join this organization. You must, however, be related to a MM or a Shriner.
- The Order of the White Shrine of Jerusalem– One of the requirements to join this organization is to profess a belief in Jesus Christ. Again, this is open to women only.
- Heroines of Jericho– This and the next one are a bit different. These groups are related to Prince Hall masonry, which may or may not be recognized as regular lodges in your state or country. This organization is associated with Prince Hall Royal Arch
- Order of Cyrenes– Similar to the Heroines, however this organization is associated with Prince Hall Templars.
- Daughters of the Nile– This group is associated with Shriners, but is different from LOSNA in that their focus is fundraising, whereas LOSNA is more focused on sociability. Again, you must be related to a MM, Shriner, or a Daughter of the Nile.
- Scottish Rite Ladies- This is not a national or international chapter, but instead depends on your Grand Lodge, or even the Scottish Rite chapter in your area. It tends to be more women getting together and having a good time, that is usually organized by the men (at least here in Nebraska). Must be related to a MM that is a member of Scottish Rite.
- Order of the Weavers– This is where I get kind of jealous. The Dutch don’t really have any co-masonic lodges, so the ladies decided to make their own body that is associated with masculine lodges. How cool is that! If you have anymore information on this organization, please contact me!
- The Widow’s Sons Ladies – Mentioned by a member of Reddit, this unique group is associated with the Masonic motorcycle group, the Widow’s Sons.
What else can I do?
Don’t be afraid to offer to help out around the lodge if you are interested in being more involved! If you’re not into it, no big deal; I know your mason would appreciate your interest. It seems that there are dinners, dances, fundraisers, you name it, almost every night of the week here- we’re not a big city, but there’s 12 masonic lodges, plus a shrine and Scottish rite, star…you get the idea. Even if you live in a small town with only one lodge, there’s bound to be something to do at least once a month.
Offer to help cook or clean, or even just hang out with the ladies at your lodge while the meeting is occurring- that’s right, it’s your lodge too, make yourself feel comfortable there! Weekly (biweekly, monthly), meetings are a great place to meet new people with a common interest-it’s really all about socializing after all. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, they will be answered if possible. Ask to see the lodge room, often there will be antique pieces that the lodge owns (I always find that stuff fascinating), ask about symbols you see, ask lots of questions!
One last bit of advice. If you are not comfortable with masonry, for any reason, whether your mason is a candidate or a 33rd degree mason, let them know. You might find that your worries were just because you did not know enough, or it might be for another reason. I cannot stress this enough. Masonry can take up a good chunk of one’s social life, and if you are uncomfortable with the amount of time that your mason is spending at lodge, tell him.
I cut this topic a bit short, because there is so much that can be said about women and masonry. I will be covering the history of women and masonry at one point.
Have a wonderful week!