The issue of women in Freemasonry is one which can be quite
controversial. We approach this subject with what we hope is an understanding of
various points of view. We take no position ourselves except to remind each Mason that they are bound by their obligations and the
rules, regulations and edicts of the Grand Lodge to which they belong! Our presentation is primarily for those outside of the
fraternity who seek additional information.
Depending on one’s location in the world as well as one’s philosophical
views, this issue may be dealt with much differently. We’ll try here to sort out the
various viewpoints in a objective manner.
To the majority of Freemasons today (dominated by US and Canadian
brethren), the concept of women becoming Masons is, for all
intents and purposes, an anathema. This is not
because of some sexist feeling or because they feel women are incapable of
understanding and appreciating the moral and spiritual lessons
that Freemasonry can impart. It is because,
simply, in their obligation they
have sworn not to be present at the making of a woman a Mason. This is, as stated by their
Grand Lodge, one of the ‘Landmarks of Freemasonry’ and is
In fact, no “mainstream” Lodge/Grand Lodge of Masons
accepts women as members or will
recognize (acknowledge) any lodge which does. (See our page on recognition
for more information on the thorny topic of recognition even
within male Masonic bodies.)
That notwithstanding, there are those who quickly point out several
other ‘facts’ (inconsistencies?) involved when addressing
More traditional Masons will respond that the entire purpose of a
‘fraternity’ is to be a group of males and that admission of women would change the character
of a three hundred year old institution beyond recognition.
This is, probably, correct. However, in light of a changing society, how are
concerns of separation and inequality addressed? Is there any “correct” answer
that would satisfy all
parties? It’s doubtful….
must be acknowledged that there are today and have
been for decades (centuries, even) females who know themselves to be ‘Masons’.
They belong to ‘lodges’ that are composed of either single-sex female lodges or mixed-sex lodges. None
of the organizations to which they belong was created by a ‘mainstream’ Grand Lodge – and that adds to the problem
based on the concern for ‘recognition’ described elsewhere on this site.
In fact, some will argue the case that in Ireland a woman was accepted as a
regular member of a men’s lodge. Of course, they fail to note that she received
her ‘knowledge’ of Freemasonry not by being voted into membership as the male
members but rather by spying on them. When caught in her misbehavior, the
members of the lodge (after considerable discussion) voted to obligate her as
they themselves had been obligated thus bringing her under the bonds of secrecy.
If this were in ANY way a precedence, we would have seen other Irish lodges (or
other lodges ANYWHERE) do it. None did! It was the exception that proved the
rule – and it was done in a time (1700s) when things were far different than
they are in the twenty-first century.
One of the very few books about women in Freemasonry is this 2009
work by Karen Kidd, well known by internet bulletin board visitors
for her even-handed behavior and avoidance of arguments on the
Karen has been an excellent role model for her
certainly be argued by members of either sex that an organization
with such high and lofty goals as Freemasonry should not worry about the sex of
its adherents. Responding to this can lead to heated rhetoric with charges of sexual
discrimination. Notwithstanding, however, the fact remains that Freemasonry
began as a male-only organization and the vast majority of its members wish it
to remain that way.
Without argument, it is agreed that MANY things in ‘mainstream’ Freemasonry have changed
over time: in the beginning, for example, there were only two (not three)
degrees, meetings were regularly held in taverns or homes (while no one would
even think of having one there now) and community service was done privately and
quietly (as compared to the public works visible through – especially – groups
like the Shriners). These things – and others – in Freemasonry have changed:
it remains to be seen whether
the male-only requirement for the fraternity will as well.
(At times on the internet one might find a passionate essay or message
encouraging this but those who espouse such change are in a very, very small minority!).
The issue is further
currently complicated by the differences in the way women with an interest in
Freemasonry were ‘dealt with’ by the Masonic fraternity in
England as compared with the United States. In the US during the 1800’s, a group designed for women
but including men, the Order of the Eastern Star, was created. OES was readily embraced by
US Masonry and Masonic buildings throughout the country were made available for their meetings.
Eastern Star rules required that the primary officer of the lodge be female (Worthy Matron),
but also mandated that at her side was a
male Mason (holding the position of near equal importance,
that of Worthy Patron). Those in the US saw Eastern Star as a way to ‘share’ the fraternalism of
the Masonic family; those in Great Britain seemed to perceive it more as an incursion into Masonry by
women which they felt was unacceptable. Although they seemed to find no objection in ‘imitation’ masonic groups (i.e. ‘women Masons’), they did take umbrage at what they perceived to be an
intrusion by a group which was ‘sponsored’ by Masons but unlike it.
(Adding insult to injury, as it were, another female group ‘attached’ to male
Freemasonry in the US – the Order of Amaranth – also appeared on the scene in
the late 1800s.)
An announcement in the ‘Grand Lodge News’ of the United Grand Lodge of England
that followed the March 10, 1999 Quarterly Communication of UGLE shows some of the
difference in position vis-a-vis Eastern Star.
“There exist in England and Wales at least two Grand Lodges solely
for women. Except that these bodies admit women, they are, so far as can be ascertained, otherwise
regular in their practice (emphasis added!). There is also one which admits both
men and women to membership. They are not recognised by this Grand Lodge and
intervisitaion may not take place. There are, however, informal discussions from time to
time with the women’s Grand Lodges on matters of mutual concern. 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). Further information about these
bodies may be obtained by writing to the Grand Secretary.”
“The Board is also aware that there exist other bodies not directly imitative of
pure antient Masonry, but which by implication introduce Freemasonry, such as the Order of
the Eastern Star. Membership of such bodies, attendance at their meetings or participation
in their ceremonies is incompatible with membership of this Grand Lodge.”
It should be noted that the
mixed order (Grand Lodge Droit Humain) is not included in the sentence which talks about regularity.
Perhaps this is because GL D-H reportedly allows political and social (including religious)
discussion in its Lodges.
In any event, the
seems far different from that taken by most US
and Canadian Grand Lodges and leaves
Freemasonry for not the first time in a quandary as to what is appropriate overall.
Because each Grand Lodge is sovereign unto itself, rulings of one do not affect another
except insofar as they change or alter the ‘landmarks’ as defined by a particular Grand
Lodge. We wrote in 2000 that we thought it was questionable
as to how these Grand Lodges would react upon
becoming aware of this position of the ‘Senior’ Grand Lodge in the world to whom many look
for precedent. By 2006, there has been apparently no reaction
whatsoever and US/Canadian GLs seem to be simply not addressing the matter in
Many (most?) mixed-gender lodges (Le
Droit Humain and some Grand Orient lodges) which exist today have – as far as can be ascertained – changed some
things which ‘mainstream’ Freemasons consider absolutely and
unequivocally essential: an open Bible upon the altar when the lodge is
at work, prohibition of political or religious discussions, etc. Because of this,
such mixed lodges are far more removed from ‘mainstream’ Freemasonry. They
consider themselves Masons but the large body of Freemasonry does not
and very likely will not in the next century at least. As one pundit has commented: I can call myself an
automobile but that doesn’t make it so! Conversely, we are
assured that some mixed-gender lodges (American Co-Masonry/AFHR, for example)
does have the same essential elements as male-only traditional Freemasonry.
We suspect that sooner or later things will change relative
to women Freemasons and all of this will be much clearer. We’ll plan an update for
this page in the year 2075 by which time that MIGHT happen….
Freemasonry – USA
Be sure to visit their “HISTORY” page – it’s EXCELLENT!
Le Droit Humain
4 Belgium Masonic Obediences
This is a VERY visually appealing website!
Los Angeles Lodge #32,
Womens Grand Lodge Belgium
GREAT site and good to have them online.
and Bro. Trevor
Frey has several documents relative to Women’s Freemasonry on the website of the
Grand Lodge of British Columbia and the Yukon. Click
In 2006, the Grand
Lodge of Scotland added some information on this topic at their website
We do want to thank
the many members of the groups listed above who’ve written to provide amplifying
information. In an area fraught with misunderstandings and great apprehensions
over loss of ‘control’, we’ve been very pleased with the fact that EVERYONE who
has contacted us about this particular page has been extraordinarily gracious!
THAT is what ‘fraternity’ is all about!!!!
A new ostensible male group, the so-called “Grand
Orient of the United States of America“, is attempting to gain credibility
for their internet sham by linking to the many mixed and female groups. It is,
simply, an attempt to ride on the coat-tails of the reputable groups listed
above. Don’t be misled!
Summer, 2009: A new book has
been released relating to women in Freemasonry. We’ve not had a chance to read
it but have heard some good reviews. Brother Karen Kidd is particularly active
online and has recently won an award in an essay contest about Freemasonry
sponsored by the United Grand Lodge of England. Those interested in the history
of this movement might enjoy her work. Let us know….
December, 2009: A particularly
odious scam is apparently being perpetrated on some women who have expressed
online their interest in pursuing Masonic membership. If you have been
approached by someone ostensibly representing “Egyptian Freemasonry” and/or a
Brad Cofield, we encourage you to read this
page before proceeding.
wording changed and links added July, 2005 and again in August, 2005 and
Revision and addition: December, 2007. Added link to Los Angeles Lodge #32 on 27
July 2008. Added note about Brad’s scams on December 2, 2009.