Women's Lodges

Freemasonry as an organisation traditionally limited its membership to men, however throughout history some women have been accepted into Lodges. The Order of the Eastern Star began in the France in 1703 and offered membership to the wives, daughter and sisters of Freemasons. In 1912 Chapters formed in Queensland and in 1913 in New South Wales. Other female Orders are the Independent Order of Shepherdesses and the Order of the Amaranth which are affiliated with Freemasonry.

In 1770 it was reported that Mrs Bell, a landlady, broke into the lodge room and found out the secret of the Lodge. An advertisement appeared in the Newcastle Weekly Chronicle in England on the 6th January, 1770, stating that she would impart her knowledge to any woman 'desirous of learning the secrets of Freemasonry'. It is not known what became of Mrs Bell but it is generally accepted that women who viewed Masonic rituals were initiated into Lodges in order to prevent them spreading the secrets.

Mrs Elizabeth Aldworth (1695-1775) known as the "Lady Freemason" was the first female Mason to be initiated into a regular Masonic Order. As a young girl she witnessed degrees being conferred in her father's house, Doneraile Court in Cork, Ireland. On her death she was buried with full Masonic honours at St. Finnbar's Cathedral and a plaque was erected by the Freemasons of Cork.

Maria Deraismes was the first female to be initiated in her own right. She was initiated into the Lodge Libre Penseurs, 'The Free Thinkers', in Paris in 1882 by Master George Martin. There had been discussion about allowing women into the Order prior to her initiation. Disharmony caused the Lodge split after the initiation and Maria Desraismes left the Order soon afterwards. In 1893 she created the first co-Masonic Lodge with George Martin.

In the Newcastle District in 1905 a Druid Lodge called the Pride of West Wallsend was formed, it was the first Druid Lodge in that area and was a women's Lodge.


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Text ©M. Sherwin 2013.

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