MIRELA ELENA ENE
Editor in Chief, MASONIC FORUM Magazine
Women’s emancipation has reached its peak, and nowadays women can be and do whatever they want.
However, admission of women in Freemasonry is a gradual process that differs from one age to another and from one state to another. Historically speaking, the presence of qualified women in masonry is attested ever since the 13th century, naturally, with some limitations and conditions imposed by their status in the age. This suggests that their access was not strictly forbidden. That being said, the first woman initiated in the mysteries of Freemasonry was Elisabeth Aldworth, in Ireland, around the year 1712, in circumstances rather unusual for a woman of the time. It apparently was only an attempt that collided several years later with the Constitutions of Anderson that stated, among other things, that it was forbidden to receive women in a Masonic lodge. As such, henceforth no woman was admitted as a fully-fledged Freemason, until January 14th, 1882, when Marie Deraismes was initiated in France. In the 150 years between the two events, in France and the United States various mixed Masonic-inspired orders are founded.
The creation of the first mixed organization in France at the end of the 19th century marks the beginning of Freemasonry opening its doors for women as well, after centuries in which Masonry had been exclusively a province of men. The evolution didn’t stop here, because the feminist manifestations at the beginning of the 20th century helped found the first female order, which developed side by side with the mixed organizations, was open to women and wherein Masonic rituals were performed similar to the ones in the men’s lodges. The United Grand Lodge of England itself (which is the Mother Grand Lodge of the World) has programs in common with the appendant female bodies in the United Kingdom, at least in the University Scheme. The evolution of female Freemasonry will surely not stop here, because the woman was created by the Divinity as the man’s equal and, at least from this point of view, it is natural that the two of them have equal positions in any area.
The path is still unfurling, because up until the 20th century the women’s attributions were inferior to the men’s, and social life sought to undervalue the role played by women, therefore not granting them the same benefits and rights as the men.
It is precisely this evolution that shows how society cannot permanently oppose the natural way of things out of the mere desire to hinder women by generating preconceptions according to which women are weak, women should tend to the children, women should tend to the house, women should be tolerant and lenient. These traits would be wonderful and desirable for any woman, as long as they are not unilateral and that responsibility is bilateral between man and woman. It is worth noting that these ideas are generated by men and women alike, especially by women who have resigned and become complacent in this roller-coaster of preconceptions.
Such preconceptions and resignations are the reason why women should feel recognized and strong, and Freemasonry can certainly give confidence to women and make them aware and self-confident, because it is, in essence, a system of morality and guidance that shows the way to a better life by using allegory and symbolism.
Humans are social beings and women, more so than men, appreciate being part of an organization where other women are also members. A special bond is thus created between us, no matter our social background, and friendship is important in the increasingly online-world of today, where people can often find themselves isolated and alone.
This is why I think there is a need for awareness regarding Masonic lodges for women. Many people don’t even know that there are also women Freemasons operating in smaller communities, with members of all ages, backgrounds and religious beliefs, communities that seek to inspire its members to become the best possible version of themselves and to also inspire those who come after them. Everyone needs a role model in life.
By following the principle “you can reach the light through many paths”, it is important that society knows female Freemasonry exists and that it isn’t something occult, but rather a moral and education guiding system, marked by allegory and symbolism and allowing its members to follow a common purpose, get involved for the betterment of society, but also in charitable acts for those in need. This is all the more valid as Freemason men – who officially began meeting 300 years ago – had more time to gain society’s attention.
We have to broaden women’s horizons, allow them access to everything a man has access to, because a woman can absolutely do anything a man does. However, us women must keep hold of our perks, maintain our femininity, fragility, sensibility and use all these perks in our favor.