I’ve been asked by Bro. Matt to write on the controversial topic of woman and Masonry. What’s fascinating is that I really didn’t know much about feminine Freemasonry. Looking into it more, women and Freemasonry is not as foreign of a concept as we may think.
The concept of women and Freemasonry began in France in the 18c. In those days, women were not allowed into male lodges. These French Masons were desirous to bring women into the Fraternity in some way so they created “lodges” that practiced the “Rite of Adoption.” The Rite used the three degree format but was not based on the same legend of their male Masonic overseers. The reason that they used the term “Adoption” or “Adoptive” was because the male lodge would be the “parent” of the female lodge.
However, the most important development in bringing women into Masonry in this country was by Robert Morris and the Order of the Eastern Star. Robert Morris was a Past Grand Master of Kentucky and is best known for the Conservator movement. He spent years in forming what would become Star and it wasn’t until he was laid up by illness that he was able to fully create the system we have today (with the help of Macoy). Because I have worked with the women of the local OES Chapter that meets in Farmington, Myrtle No. 13, especially when I was Master, I have a lot of respect for these women.
They dedicate their lives to charity, to self-improvement, and to learning. They perform a century and a half old ritual in the same manner as when it was first constructed. They are as serious if not more serious about their ritual as any Masonic lodge that I have visited.
It’s quite understandable that Masons of nearly every century have sought to bring the spirit of Freemasonry to the important women of their lives even if those women aren’t allowed into lodge. Our tenets, the dedication to brotherly love, relief, and truth, are universal precepts.
Women represent a very important aspect of Masonry, even if they aren’t Masons. They are our wives and mothers, our daughters and friends. Women that choose Star become important Masonic contacts, particularly for the officers of the lodge. Personally, I think there is a time for male only, female-only, and co-ed organizations. Each of these provides a different perspective for improvement. There really is a time for every purpose under heaven.
I like my male only lodge. It gives me a time to discuss with other men their lives and mine, and their thoughts and mine. Men need a place to be, to put it frankly, men. I’m not as concerned with the death of maleness but I do share some of the same opinions as Robert Bly. Men are an experimental species and we need those myths and rites of passage because our maturity does not come to us from some biological clock. Freemasonry is that rite of passage; it gives a man a new starting point into adulthood, even if he joins in his 40s or 50s. Maleness is not under assault as much as it is being forgotten. Bly describes these men as half-adults, never fully reaching maturity. Through Masonic practice, we can stitch both halves together.
We seek to make “good men better” but I would argue that our mission statement could be reduced to three words, “we make men.” We need to make better leaders, better fathers, and better husbands. The only way we can do that is by leaving the TV set behind and becoming reacquainted with our maleness. The only way we can do this is in a male-only organization.