speaking of the other sex in the same breath as Freemasonry, I am aware that I
could be regarded by brethren as committing sacrilege. Perhaps readers, however,
should bide their time until the chapter has been completed.
the role of women in society has changed dramatically in recent times. Women now
take their place in areas of activity which would have been denied to them only
a very short time ago. More and more women are making their presence felt in the
political arena, the business world, the various professions, sport, television
in all manner of places.
inclusion of women in the Masonic organisation is expressly prohibited as
referred to in our ritual and, also, as stated in the laid-down basic principles
of recognition between Grand Lodges, the relevant clause of which states,
"that the membership of the Grand Lodge and individual Lodges shall be
composed exclusively of men; and that each Grand Lodge shall have no Masonic
intercourse of any kind with mixed Lodges or bodies which admit women to
membership." The Masonic authority, Mackey, in the 18th of his 25 Landmarks
stated ". . . that certain qualifications of a candidate for initiation
shall be that he is a man
however, it was not considered appropriate in days past for women to join with
men in a particular organisation, it should not necessarily mean that they be
barred from such association forever - especially when one realises how the
status of women and the degree of their participation in so many streams of
community life have changed so comprehensively. Is tradition to be the principal
objection to the entry of women into an order such as Freemasonry!
aspect that warrants consideration is that Freemasonry today is not proving
completely satisfying, not only to the male population at large but also to many
brethren. For the last 20 years, as indicated earlier, the drop-out from the
order, universally, has been alarming.
proposal relating to women, however, is not advanced merely for the shallow
purpose of trying to restore our sagging numbers. It is submitted because I
wonder whether there is a possibility that the introduction of; bi-sexual basis
into our order, in other words, the injection of what could be called the
beginning of a family concept in Freemasonry, may be just what our institution
needs at this particular period of its existence.
are bound by their professed beliefs to adhere to a number of laid-down
principles and virtues in the conduct of their lives. But, many women, probably
more women than men, also believe in basing their live on similar values.
there not be, therefore, much to be gained by providing a forum where both sexes
can work together for their mutual benefit and for the development of a more
powerful organisation, an organisation which could set an example to the
community by spreading the principles of morality virtue and goodness throughout
a world which needs as much moral leadership as it can get at all levels of
women have already acted on their ideals and joined organisations of a
moralistic, quasi-religious and, in some cases, Masonic nature developed
principally for women. At least five such bodies exist in Victoria, namely, The
Order of the Eastern Star, The Order of the Amaranth, The White Shrine of
Jerusalem, The Order of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masonry for Women, and
five organisations function in different overseas countries especially in the
United States, and in varying degrees in the Australian States. The orders are
designed mainly for women but, in all but one case there is a small male
the United States all or most of these organisations are recognised as
"Bodies identified with Freemasonry" or "Appendant Bodies".
Thinking again of the family concept, it is of interest that United States
recognition extends, in many cases, to two organisations for girls (the Orders
of the Rainbow, and Job's Daughters) and to the De Molay Order for boys. It is
of interest, also, that a significant proportion of the De Molay membership
moves on later to join the Masonic order.
following basic particulars are now presented concerning the predominantly
OF THE EASTERN STAR
order, which has it origins in Scotland, dates back some 200 years. The ritual
is based on the lives of five Biblical heroines. Three come from the Old
Testament, Adah - the daughter, Ruth - the widow, and Esther -- the wife, and
two from the New Testament, Martha"- the sister, and Electa - the mother.
While its rites contain only one ceremony, that of the initiation, the ritual
incorporates five degrees which teach the lessons of fidelity, constancy,
purity, hope and charity. The order's great theme is womanhood. Its lessons are
described as scriptural, its teachings as moral and its purposes as beneficent.
The order has "signs" and "words".
aim of the order is for its members to become co-workers in the service of
humanity, giving comfort in affliction, sympathy in sorrow and aid in
misfortune. Members are expected to cultivate the moral virtues and promote the
interests of true religion, based on a belief in the existence of a Supreme
is available to both women and men. Any woman seeking membership must be a
daughter, widow, wife, sister or mother of a Freemason, while men must be master
masons in good standing, including unaffiliated brethren.
many years the order required a direct degree of collaboration from the Masonic
order in that Freemasons in good standing were needed to preside at meetings and
were also necessarily involved in the sponsorship of candidates. These
requirements, however, have been modified in more recent times.
a long period, Grand Lodges generally, including our own in Victoria, placed a
ban on Freemasons associating in any way with the order. But, today, the United
Grand Lodge of Victoria and many other Grand Lodges have removed the bans, and
now recognise the Eastern Star as a worthy community organisation alongside such
bodies as Red Cross, Legacy, Carry On, etc. Freemasons are now permitted to
associate with the order in a private capacity.
change of approach from the Masonic side has been adopted by all Australian
Masonic jurisdictions, excepting Western Australia, where brethren are still
banned from any association with the order.
order has 11 chapters in Victoria. No regalia is worn but officers wear jewels
of office on multi-coloured ribbons together with sashes. Ladies wear white
dresses and men wear dinner jackets or suits. Much work is done for community
charities. Chapters meet in various halls; two, in fact, meet in the Masonic
temples at Fairfield and Frankston. The order is not short of candidates.
ORDER OF THE AMARANTH
order, originally, was a chivalric and equestrian order founded by Queen
Christina of Sweden in 1653. It consisted of 15 knights, 15 ladies and the
the next relevant development appears to have been the creation of what was
called French Adoptive Masonry early in the 18th century when several French Freemasons conceived the idea
of a movement designed to provide a practical means of giving their wives and
daughters a share of what they had experienced and enjoyed in their Masonic
assemblies. The term "Adoptive" was used as part of the title on the
basis that the Freemasons were to formally adopt the ladies to whom the
mysteries of the degrees were imparted.
development, however, did not arouse any particular degree of interest and
approximately another 150 years passed before two Prominent American Freemasons
introduced an imitation of the French rite, calling it the American Adoptive
Rite. Their stated aim was "to associate in one common bond with master
masons their wives, widows, daughters and "sisters".
Supreme Council was established in New York in 1873, and a ritual was devised
incorporating three degrees called by the following names:
Queen of the South (about which little is known)
Order of the Amaranth
Order of the Amaranth was incorporated in its own right in 1915 with its own
ritual, emblems, etc. Its units are called "Courts", and membership is
available to the wives, widows, mothers, daughters and sisters of Freemasons and
master masons in good standing (as is the case with the Order of the Eastern
order has a ritual and ceremonial which had its origins in the proceedings at
Queen Christina's Court. There is an initiation ceremony only.
ideals of the order relate to home, friendship and hospitality. The principal
objects are fraternal, social and charitable, and the cardinal virtues are
truth, faith, wisdom and charity. No regalia is worn. Women wear formal evening
gowns with long white gloves and men wear dinner jackets. There are some 15
Amaranth Courts in Queensland and a further 15 in New South Wales, three in
Western Australia and one each in South Australia and Victoria. The Victorian
Court, formed about 35 years ago, has a membership of some 80, including
approximately 10 men, mostly husbands of women members. The Amaranth has a
dictionary meaning of "everlasting flower".
WHITE SHRINE OF JERUSALEM
organisation operates only in a small way in Victoria. There is at present only
one local Shrine, named "Ruth". Membership is restricted to members of
the Order of the Eastern Star. It is understood that the operations of the order
are based on the birth of Christ.
OF ANCIENT, FREE AND ACCEPTED MASONRY FOR WOMEN
order, which is exclusively for women, originated in France just over 100 years
ago. A Supreme Grand Council was formed in the United Kingdom in 1925, and the
order commenced operations in Australia two years later. The Australian
headquarters are in Sydney.
are a number of lodges meeting in New South Wales and Queensland. In Victoria,
there are two Craft lodges and one Mark lodge. The organisation is of a direct
Masonic nature, and its workings are based on the Ancient and Accepted Scottish
Rite -- 10
the order is a small one, its members are said to have a most dedicated belief
in Masonic principles. Although clearly of a strictly Masonic character, the
organisation regards itself as an exclusive and independent order, and has
introduced various modifications of its own into
CO-MASONRY ("LE DROIT HUMAIN")
order, which also had its birth in France just over 90 years ago, affirms the
essential quality of man and woman. It is composed of so-called Freemasons of
both sexes, and has prescribed a ceremonial and symbolic method by which members
can "raise their Temple to the perfection and the glory of humanity or to
the Glory of the Great Architect of the Universe". Members of the order are
encouraged to seek the greatest degree of moral and intellectual development.
Its aims are said to be closely related to those of male speculative
Freemasonry. The motto of the order is "Ordo ab Chao". meaning order
out of chaos.
was introduced into Victoria in 1911. In Victoria, there are six lodges
corresponding to our Craft lodges, two Mark, two Chapters, two Royal Ark
Mariners, one - 180
and one - 300.
In the Craft lodges, five are called "white" and the remaining one
"black". The term "black" refers to the colour of the
dressing worn by the women members.
is open to any woman or man regularly proposed and accepted. Any Freemason
wishing to join is expected to give up his Craft association. While any man can
join, male visitors to Co-Masonic lodges must be Freemasons and are
"proved" before admission.
ritual and ceremonial are very similar to that used in the male Craft. Regalia
is also similar. Because of the almost identical nature of the operations of
Co-Masonry, Freemasons are not permitted to associate with it. To do so would be
regarded as a breach of a Freemason's obligations. This can, of course, make for
awkward situations where wives and other female relatives of Freemasons are
members of Co-Masonry.
will be appreciated that the foregoing presents only a brief and sketchy picture
of the women's organisations. The research I have been able to pursue in this
area leads me to the firm opinion that all of these bodies and their members are
imbued with the highest of ideals. All, in their own particular ways, are
searching for light, for betterment of the human soul, and are actively working
for the spread of goodwill, charity and happiness throughout society.
relation to our own womenfolk, we have made sure that our ladies have not been
forgotten in the measures taken to achieve a greater degree of acceptability and
understanding of the Craft's activities. Official sanction was given some years
ago to the holding of "Ladies in the South" nights where our ladies
are not only entertained but are offered explanations of Masonic aims. Lodges
may also have their ladies join with the brethren at installation banquets.
Generally speaking, Masonic womenfolk, today, are much more conversant with the
workings of the order than hitherto. And, in passing, it is of interest to
report that many of the members of the women's orders are wives or other female
relatives of Masonic brethren. Following my review of this matter, my feelings
may be summarised in the following way.
Freemasonry's numerical decline is merely a cyclical phenomenon soon likely to
pass away with man moving from the present fetish of materialism and the
mindless "knocking" of established institutions, and seeing the
Masonic environment as something special, membership of which may enable him to
get a sense of real purpose and balance into living, then we may all feel happy
and relieved that the art of the masculine mystic tie has prevailed and will
continue, in its existing form, to maintain the stabilising influence on society
that it has exercised over many generations.
the other hand, if interest in Masonic principles continues to deteriorate,
membership continues to dwindle and, hand in hand, standards of community
morality continue to waver, should serious thought be given to examining the
basic structure of our order? The Craft has slipped. Some strengthening action
seems necessary. Operational and procedural modifications to Craft processes
have not succeeded in reversing the trend.
need a new enthusiasm, a new dedication. In all the circumstances, could there
be value in examining a proposition that possesses a good deal of realism in
modern times! Should we amend our entry qualifications from "male
only" to a bi-sexual or more family-oriented basis, although at the same
time, restricting admission to close female relatives of Freemasons at this
stage? We could, perhaps, endeavour to establish what could be called an
Australian Adoptive Rite as the Craft (and the world) enters what is being
described as the age of the nuclear family.
however, such thinking is regarded as too radical and unacceptable, should we
look at the American approach and, in relation to at least some of the mainly
female organisations referred to herein, consider providing some form of
practical recognition of their existence and endeavours? This would be a timely
gesture to organisations whose aims and purposes seem so linked with our own.