Women in Freemasonry

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The subject of women and Freemasonry is complex and without an easy explanation. Traditionally, only men can be made Freemasons

in regular Freemasonry. Many Grand Lodges do not admit women because they believe it would break the ancient Masonic Landmarks. 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, such as : –

  • Order of Women Freemasons 
  • Order of the Eastern Star
  • Order of the Amaranth
  • White Shrine of Jerusalem
  • Social Order of Beauceant 
  • Daughters of the Nile

The United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE), Grand Lodge of Scotland and all the Grand Lodges in the United States along with other Grand Lodges which are concordant in that regular tradition, do not formally recognize any Masonic body that accepts women.

eillen-grayThe 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.

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. Many masons believe that regardless of their opinions of women in masonry, they can not break their obligation.

I think when our predecessors came up with our obligations in the sublime degree, they have very good and unquestionable reasons why they have place there the line “…that I will not attend in or be present at the making…knowing them to be such.”                       Masonic Network Forum Post

For some Mason’s they have concerns that admitting women into the craft would have an adverse affect on the Harmony of the lodge.

You should consider that not only they are natural sources of distractions for us but among them, the risk is an escalation of rivalry/competition which usually happens in “profane” mixed groups. I’ve seen great friendships broken because of the action of one or more girls.   Masonic Network Forum Post

The brethren were right in their statements, that it will create misunderstanding among the brethren – whereby disharmonizing the lodge and weakens its foundation.   Masonic Network Forum Post

This emotive topic has generated much activity on the Masonic Network forum here are some of the other entries the brethren have posted

I am not hereby saying that women do not feel the need or want to improve themselves, but I believe that the masonic way of self-improvement in general isn’t that interesting for women – otherwise there would be many more female lodges around the world.

I don’t support women in Freemasonry. It’s a Brotherhood, not a Sisterhood or Personhood. It’s the oldest “fraternity” not sorority. Not everything has to be open to both men and women. We can still be equal and not have to attend each others private groups.

And of course many Mason’s would support Women joining the craft.

How can we decide that freemasonry is owned by men for the rest of history? God created man and woman in this material world with space and time, where we can only work with opposites. However, isn’t it a task of the freemason to find its way back to the divine paradise, where unity can be found? Isn’t it important to focus on all matters those unities us instead of matters that divide?

To close I would like to include a reply written by a female mason, Bro Karen Kidd, who won a Masonic Short Paper competition with this short essay

I am Regular. I know this to be true, though I’ve heard otherwise. That because various Masonic jurisdictions (such as the United Grand Lodge of England, the US Malecraft Grand Lodges and etc.) are not in amity with my jurisdiction, and because I’m a woman, I can’t possibly be Regular. I’ve also been counseled that, slander though this be, I should take it in good part and be grateful my Malecraft brethren speak to me at all.   And yet I know myself to be Regular because the Ritual and Masonic jurisprudence say that I am. So I am. By way of explanation, and within the context of this paper, I am about to use a word many find most unpalatable. I mean it in its legal sense.  I am no one’s bastard brother. I was conceived in the same place as are all the Brethren. Our progenitor is the same. I was properly prepared. I was received upon the same point. I was made in the b*dy of a L*dge J*st, P*rfect and R*gular. I meet the criteria Bro. Albert Mackey, and others, set down long ago: – I am acknowledged as a Free and Accepted Mason – I was initiated into our mysteries in that “certain manner” – I was made with the assistance of, and under the superintendence of, seven (and more) Master Masons – I share in common, with all Brothers, “the ready use of those signs and words which are used by the other brethren.”  This all occurred within my jurisdiction which, like all Masonic jurisdictions, claims no binding authority over the Freemasons in any other jurisdiction. Indeed, I have poured over the books and I can find no instance in which *any* Freemasonic grand lodge, supreme council or other supreme body ever claimed authority over any other such body. It is commonly accepted that no such body can make any pronouncement that is at all binding on any other such body. Logically, this includes any pronouncements about regularity. Any Masonic supreme body may enter into amity agreements with other such bodies. And they also may declare that they consider, within their own jurisdiction, those bodies not in amity with them to be “clandestine” and even “irregular”. This is their right.  However, their pronouncements about regularity outside their jurisdictions do not mean that those other Freemasons in other jurisdictions are, in fact, irregular. Indeed, the only Brothers any of these supreme bodies may accurately declare irregular are those in lodges within their own sphere of authority.  This means a Brother is Regular by virtue of being so recognized within his/her own jurisdiction. No Brother upon the Earth requires recognition by any other jurisdiction to be Regular. Each Brother is as Regular within their own jurisdiction as any other Brother is Regular within their own jurisdiction.   So I speak a truth – and for some, a mystery – when I say, “I am regular”.