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From: PROSPER THE ART, by J, Sullivan.

Developed by W.Bro. Kent Henderson
Dip. T., B. Ed., Grad. Cert. Ed., Grad. Dip. Ed., M. Ed, Diploma of Masonic Education (Sth. Aust.)
Past Junior Grand Deacon, A. F. & A. Masons of Victoria, Australia.


In 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.


Undoubtedly, 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.


The 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


Because, 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!


Another 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.


The 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.


Freemasons 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.


Might 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 society?


Some 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 International Co-Freemasonry.


These 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 membership.


In 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.


The following basic particulars are now presented concerning the predominantly female orders:




This 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".


The 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 Being.


Membership 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.


For 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.


For 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.


The 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.


The 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.




This 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 Queen.


Historically, 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.


This 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".


A Supreme Council was established in New York in 1873, and a ritual was devised incorporating three degrees called by the following names:

· Eastern Star

· Queen of the South (about which little is known)

· Order of the Amaranth


The 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 Star).


The order has a ritual and ceremonial which had its origins in the proceedings at Queen Christina's Court. There is an initiation ceremony only.


The 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".




This 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.



This 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.

There 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 to 33°.

While 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




This 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.


Co-Masonry 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.


Membership 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.


The 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.


It 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.


In 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.


If 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.


On 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.


We 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.


If, 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.

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