Women Freemasons

While regular Grand Lodges do not allow women to become members, there are masonic organizations for women.

In regular freemasonry such as the Grand Lodge of Texas AF&AM there are associated organization such as the Eastern Star, Daughters of the Nile, Job’s Daughters or Rainbow Girls. But there is no option for women to become full Master Masons and be recognized by this Grand Lodge.

However, there are other options available to women who want to become Master Masons.

In the United States there are two main variants known as “Universal Co-Masonry” and “Order of Women Freemasons”.

Co-masonry was originally founded in France in the 1890’s and was known as “Le Droit Humain”. They allow for men and women to join together in the same organization as equal members. Because this violates one of the main principals laid out in the historic landmarks that all regular masonic lodges agreed to uphold, they are therefore considered to be irregular and clandestine by any regular Grand Lodge in the World.

The Order of Women Freemasons is the world’s largest women-only organization of freemasonry. They broke off the co-masonry organization in 1908. It is an exclusively female organization that follows the same structure, believes and traditions as the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE). UGLE was the first Grand Lodge to be formed in 1717 and all regular Grand Lodges across the world follow their lineage back to it. UGLE has cordial relations with OWF, but is not able to proclaim official recognition since it violates one of the historical landmarks.

Order of the Eastern Star

The Order of the Eastern Star is a Masonic-related fraternity of women and men dedicated to charity, truth and loving kindness. Although not a part of the Masonic fraternity, membership is based on a Masonic affiliation or relationship, a belief in God, and a desire to acquire additional knowledge and for self improvement. The order was established in 1850 and has approximately 10,000 chapters in twenty countries and approximately 500,000 members under its General Grand Chapter. Members of the Order of the Eastern Star are aged 18 and older; men must be Master Masons and women must have specific relationships with Masons.

The degrees of the Order of the Eastern Star teach lessons of fidelity, constancy, loyalty, faith and love. These degrees are presented in a beautiful ritualistic ceremony designed to not only teach the lessons, but also to provide insight for future study and understanding.

Each group is lead by a Worthy Matron and a Worthy Patron. The Matron is the presiding officer, and the Patron provides general support and masonic authority to the chapter.

Types of Masonic Organizations

Masonic organisations can be divided into appendant vs concordant bodies.
Additionally they can be divided into petitionable vs invitational organizations.

Appendant:
These are groups that Master Masons and their families can join. They offer additional degrees to increase their knowledge of Freemasonry and its principles, or simply offer opportunities for fellowship.

Concordant:
These are groups that offer Master Masons an opportunity to become more involved in Blue Lodge Masonry, without joining additional bodies. These organizations are considered Lodges, but are not able to initiate new Entered Appreciate Masons. For example Texas Lodge of Research, Tranquility Lodge 2000, and others.

Petitionable:
These are bodies or organizations that a Master Mason can apply to for membership. Examples include the Scottish Rite, Shriners, Grotto, York Rite.

Invitational:
When a Brother has served the Craft above and beyond what is accepted as usual, or has shown an interest or disposition on what the group does, he may be solicited to join one of these groups. Each has its own purposes and traditions, rules and regulations, and requirements in order to invite someone. E.g. Societas Rosicruciana, Allied Masonic Degrees, or Grand College of Rites.

Lodge Officers

Freemasonry uses what appears to be a foreign language. The terminology is based on ancient traditions. The different officer positions in a local lodge are a good representation.

Each masonic lodge has several different officers that are responsible for the operation of the organization. Some of the positions are required, while others are optional. Officers are assigned custom aprons and “jewels”. Jewels are not precious stones, but instead insignia worn by the officers to indicate their positions. Additionally, some lodges have “progressive lines”, while others do not. A progressive line of officers indicates that someone who wants to be the Worshipful Master of a lodge needs to prove their dedication to the lodge by filling other officer positions beforehand. Whether or not a particular lodge has a progressive line is the decision of that lodge. It often depends on the vitality of the lodge on the interest of their membership.

Each lodge must have the following officer positions:
Worshipful Master (highest honor a lodge can bestow, like president of lodge)
Senior and Junior Wardens (responsible for operation of lodge, like Vice Presidents of a lodge)
Senior and Junior Deacons (assist the wardens and worshipful master in the lodge)
Secretary (records meeting minutes, communicates with lodge membership and Grand Lodge)
Treasurer (keeps financial accounts, collects dues and pays expenses)
Tyler (guards the outside of the lodge doors and announces visitors)

The following officer positions are optional, but some or more common than others:
Senior and Junior Stewards (assist the deacons, in Texas they run the kitchen)
Marshall (responsible for lodge etiquette, procedures, and leads the lodge in flag ceremonies)
Master of Ceremony (prepares candidates before degrees)
Musician (provides musical accompaniment during lodge proceedings)
Chaplain (leads lodge in prayer and says grace at dinners)
Education (responsible for the continued masonic education of the membership)

Additionally, lodges commonly organize several committees that are used to address specific purposes. Some common ones are:
– Scholarships
– Charity
– Widows and Orphans
– Building Maintenance
– Festiveboards (Special Events)
– Social Media / Communications

Masonic Organizational Structure


For newcomers to Freemasonry the different names of organizations can be utterly bewildering. It is hard to comprehend where to begin and whom to approach first.

The ground level of all masonic organizations is the local lodge. In the USA this is often called a “blue lodge”. The local lodge is the smallest unit of freemasonry and includes the people who live in the town or neighborhood. This is where one will become a Master Mason and spend most of his time when involved in masonic activities.

Several lodges are then combined into a district. Districts are simply an artificial grouping to help the bureaucracy of the respective Grand Lodge.

Grand Lodges are the highest level of regular freemasonry. This is the body that includes all member lodges. Any local lodge that is located in the jurisdiction of a particular Grand Lodge is then assigned membership to it. Grand Lodges usually meet once a year to allow the leaders of the local lodges to voice their opinions and raise their concerns. This annual meeting is also when any changes to the bylaws of the Grand Lodge are agreed upon.

In the USA there is a “Conference of Grand Masters” that facilitates the communications between the 51 Grand Lodges that are located in the USA, specifically the 50 states and the District of Columbia. This organization is strictly bureaucratic and has no direct influence over individual local lodges.

Additionally there are masonic groups that are referred to as “appendant bodies”. These organizations allow for further engagement but all require that one must be a master mason in good standing (dues paying) with an individual local lodge. These appendant bodies include “Scottish Rite”, “York Rite”, the “Shrine”, the “Grotto”, “Order of the Eastern Star”, and many more. All of these appendant bodies have their own organizational structure with their own independent governing body that they belong to. Nevertheless, these organisations’ governing bodies defer to the local Grand Lodges as the essential authority over Freemasonry in a local area.

Regular vs Irregular Lodges

Regularity is one of the factors by which individual Grand Lodges judge whether to recognise one another for the purposes of allowing formal interaction at the Grand Lodge level and visitation by members of other jurisdictions. Each individual Grand Lodge determines which other Grand Lodges it considers Regular (and the standards for determining this are not uniform between Grand Lodges). Since there is no globally centralised Masonic organisational system, and therefore the criteria for regularity are not consistent across all Grand Lodges.

The largest collection of mutually recognised Grand Lodges derives its regularity from one or more of the Home Grand Lodges – United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE), Grand Lodge of Scotland (GLoS) and Grand Lodge of Ireland (GLoI)) based on criteria known as “Basic Principles for Grand Lodge Recognition” which together they codified and published on 4 September 1929.

In the United States, each state has a Grand Lodge that supervises the lodges within that state and is sovereign and independent within that jurisdiction. These are commonly referred to as the “regular” or “mainstream” Grand Lodges. There is no national Grand Lodge. All regular Grand Lodges in the US are in mutual amity with each other and with UGLE.

In addition, most States also have a sovereign and independent Prince Hall Grand Lodge that is or was predominantly African-American. For many years the mainstream Grand Lodges did not recognize Prince Hall Freemasonry and considered them irregular. Starting in the 1980s, this situation has changed and today most mainstream Grand Lodges have come to recognize their Prince Hall counterparts and vice versa.

Due to a 19th-century argument and a resulting schism, not all Prince Hall Grand Lodges recognize each other (see Prince Hall National Grand Lodge), and generally the mainstream Grand Lodges have followed the lead of their Prince Hall counterparts when it comes to recognizing Prince Hall Grand Lodges in other states. UGLE has also granted recognition to Prince Hall Grand Lodges where they are recognised by their mainstream counterparts.

Throughout the US there are also numerous bodies that claim to be Masonic Lodges and Grand Lodges, but which are not recognized as such by UGLE, the mainstream Grand Lodges, nor their Prince Hall counterparts. These are deemed to be irregular.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regular_Masonic_jurisdiction

Knights of Columbus

Many people wonder if the “Knights of Columbus” are associated with freemasonry. The short answer is no. The Knights are exclusively a Roman Catholic organization that requires that all members must also belong to the Catholic Church. They are an official organization that is endorsed by the Vatican. This organization was founded in 1882, 165 years after the first freemason grand lodge was founded.

The goals of this organization are to make good men better men and to organize and support charitable causes. These goals are the same as those of freemasonary. The biggest difference is that the Knights only allow Roman Catholics to join, while Freemasonry is open to all religions.

One can speculate that due to the anti-masonic fervor by the Catholic Church, and the continued demand for fraternal organizations by the public at large, that the Church saw a need to create this substitute.

In general freemasons and the Knights of Columbus respect each other and are even friends on a personal level. However, due to the obligations that both masons and knights take, neither is allowed to discuss specific details of their rituals and traditions with the other. Nor are they allowed to participate in any official lodge meetings of the other organization.

Tolerance

The four cardinal masonic virtues are: Temperance, Prudence, Fortitude and Justice.

Freemasons are taught to respect their brothers and their ideas. Even if we might “know better”, we are reminded to restrain ourselves and show our brothers the same respect that we would expect ourselves. When we restrain ourselves from making a negative comment and interrupting them, we follow the cardinal virtues, mainly temperance, prudence and fortitude. These principles are today more commonly known as tolerance.

Freemasonry by its very core ideals teaches tolerance to all its members. We accept all men regardless of their race, nationality, ethnicity, religion, political affiliation, sexual orientation, wealth, educational level, occupation, shoe size or hair-length. It is about the internal qualifications, such as the character of the individual, and not the external such as appearances, that determine whether or not a man is a good fit for freemasonry and would be welcome into its midst.

Tolerance oftentimes is mistaken for inaction, but that is inaccurate. Even today we see a cycle of hatred, violence and intolerance spread across the globe once more. Violence and anger are easy emotions to fall back upon as a response. However, the only way to truly and enduringly combat and overcome these negative tendencies is to actively demonstrate tolerance, and to stand up for justice and the other cardinal virtues.

Possibly at no other time have the ideas of Temperance, Prudence, Fortitude, Justice and Tolerance been so important, not just for Freemasonry, but for the entire World. As Freemasons we need to rise above all the negative emotions and set an example as we stand as upright citizens by the virtues that we hold so dear.

Landmarks

The landmarks are the principles that all freemasons around the world agree upon. Any regular masonic Grand Lodge must conform with these basic landmarks. Some have as few as seven, and others have as many as twenty-five.

Here are the most basic landmarks, or rather believes that all regular, and recognized lodges must base their bylaws upon:

1) Belief in a Supreme Being
2) Belief in immortality
3) That a “book of sacred law” is an indispensable part of the “furniture” (or furnishings) of the Lodge
4) The legend of the Third Degree
5) Secrecy (not specifying as to what)
6) Symbolism of operative masonry
7) That a Mason must be a man, freeborn, and of lawful age

If any lodge is missing even a single one of these landmarks, then they are not recognized by any other regular masonic lodge. Members of irregular lodges are no longer allowed to visit other regular lodges.

Shriners

shriners fez

Shriners, or as they are known by their full title “The Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine” (A.A.O.N.M.S.)” are one of the best known masonic organizations. Members wear red fezzes and use middle easter titles and themes. In order to join one has to be a 3rd degree Master Mason. This was changed in the year 2,000. Before then all members had to be either a Knight Templar of the York Rite, or a 32 Degree Scottish Rite.

The Shrine was started in 1870 and has become the social arm of freemasonry. They encourage fellowship and offer many opportunities for their members to socialize in their many diverse clubs. Clubs will be formed around the interests of the members of that local shrine, and can include hobbies such as hunting, craft brewing, board gaming, fishing, motor bike riding, music, star gazing, wood working, or many more.

Shriners are known for their fun circuses and the tiny cars in local parades. These, along with the Shriners Hospitals Golf Tournament, are used as fundraisers to finance the many charities they support. But the main charity are the Shriner Children’s Hospitals. These hospitals will treat the patients free of charge and offer world class services.

The Shrine has a Women’s Auxiliary body that is called the “Daughters of the Nile”. This was formed in 1913 and has several local lodges named “temples” to help support the local Shrine chapter and the Shriner Children’s Hospitals.

Masons who are interested in charity, or enjoying the more social aspects of the fraternity, would be well advised to join the Shrine.