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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Essay on Exclusion of Women in Freemasonry

Essay on Exclusion of Women in Freemasonry

            Freemasonries have always been known to be association of men.  In England, which is considered to be the birthplace of freemasonry, women were generally considered to be excluded from being members in freemasonry, with some notable exceptions. In France and in other countries, women were also excluded in lodges.  While it is true that there were mixed lodges in France and women were allowed to hold high positions in these mixed lodges, the Grand Orient de France and Grand Loge de France did not extend formal recognition on these lodges.  This essay seeks to discuss the reasons for the general exclusion of women in freemasonry.

            In the early days of freemasonry, the question of the admission of women in freemasonry was never an issue. This was the time when the membership in freemasonry was limited to skilled masons and cathedral builders.  The issue of whether women should be admitted in freemasonry was raised only during the era of speculative freemasonry. This was the time when the membership in freemasonry was expanded to those other than builders and stonemasons.  Women started to take keen interest because they saw it as an opportunity to further their feminist ideals.  

            In Great Britain, however, the policy was crystal clear.  Revd. Dr. James Anderson, the mason who penned the constitutions of the freemason, stated in the third article of the constitution that “The persons admitted members of a Lodge must be good and true men, free born and of mature and discreet age, no bondmen, no women, no immoral or scandalous men, but of good report.” It should be stressed, however, that there were exceptions to this rule as some women have been known to have been admitted in freemasonry in Great Britain but these were more of exceptions rather than the rule.

            There were many reasons for excluding women in freemasonry in Great Britain.  John Turnough (1788) reasoned women should be excluded because their admission will only lead to the breakdown of the institution on account of jealousy.  For Turnough, freemasonry is and will always be an association of men and to accept women as members will only distract the men from their common goal.  

            In France, mixed lodges where female were accepted as members were very common during the 17th Century.   According to Revauger (2005), there was a total of 40 mixed lodges in provincial France and four or five in Paris.  Of these mixed lodges, the more famous were the Le Droit Humain and La Grande Loge Symbolique which was created on 1883 (Heidle, 2008, p. 221).

Though the women took advantage of these mixed lodges to further their feminist ideals, it should be stressed that the policy against the admission of women in freemasonries in France is generally the same as that in Great Britain.  The mixed lodges formed to accommodate female members where more of act of tolerance rather than acceptance of female members. In fact, the Grand Orient de France and the Grand Loge de France did not formally accept these mixed lodges.  Even the Grand Lodge of England did not grant formal recognition of these mixed lodges.

A proof that these mixed lodges were considered as aberrations was the fact that they were labeled as Loges d’ Adoption in France.  This means that these mixed lodges are imperfect imitations of lodges. It also meant that these lodges were impure compared to the traditional form of freemasonry composed exclusively of men.  

            There were several justifications for excluding women in freemasonry in France.  One of these justifications is that the entire principle behind the formation of freemasonry is that it is an association of men.  As an association of men only men should be members of freemasonry.  Freemasonry does not argue that men are superior to women.  Freemasonry excludes women because its primary purpose is to train men become better individuals.  As a brotherhood composed of men, the idea of freemasonry is to serve as training ground where man can refine and hone their skills and learn more about their purpose in life which is inappropriate for women.  Through proper training freemasonry hope to become instruments to help man achieve his goal and purpose in life.  If women were to be admitted, therefore, then the entire structure of freemasonry will have to be changed. For this reason, freemasonry were designed to be exclusive associations of men. 

Cited Works
Holmes, Diana and Carrie Tarr. A Belle Epoque?: Women in French Society and Culture, 1890-1914.

Revauger, Cecile. Women Banned from Masonic Work: A British Phenomenon. Isabelle
Baudino and Jacques Carr. England: Ashgate Publishing, 2005.

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