The law which excludes women from initiation into Freemasonry is not contained in the precise words in any of the Old Constitutions, although it is continually implied, as when it is said in the Lansdowne Manuscript, 1560, that the Apprentice must be "of limbs whole, as a man ought to be." and that he must be "no bondsman." All the regulations also refer to men only, and many of them would be wholly inapplicable to women. But in the Charges compiled by Anderson and Desaguliers, and published in 1723, the word woman is for the first time introduced and the law is made explicit. Thus it is said that "the persons admitted members of a Lodge must be good and true men, .... no bondmen, no women," etc.
(Constitutions, 1723, page 51). Perhaps the best reason that can be assigned for the exclusion of women from our Lodges will be found in the character of our organization as a mystic Society. Speculative Freemasonry is only an application of the art of Operative Masonry to purposes of morality and science. The Operative branch of our Institution was the forerunner and origin of the Speculative. Now, as we admit of no innovations or changes in our customs, Speculative Freemasonry retains, and is governed by, all the rules and regulations that existed in and controlled its Operative prototype. Hence, as in this latter art only hale and hearty men, in possession of all their limbs and members, so that they might endure the fatigues of labor, were ployed, so in the former the rule still holds, of excluding all who are not in possession of these prerequisite qualifications.
Woman is not permitted to participate in our rites and ceremonies, not because we deem her unworthy or unfaithful, or incapable, as has been foolishly supposed, of keeping a secret, but because on our entrance into the Order, we found certain regulations which prescribed that only men capable of enduring the labor, or of fulfilling the duties of Operative Masons, could be admitted. These regulations we have solemnly promised never to alter; nor could they be changed, without an entire disorganization of the whole system of Speculative Freemasonry.
A curious newspaper advertisement appeared in the Newcastle Weekly Chronicle, January 6, 1770, as quoted below:
This is to acquaint the public that on Monday, 1st inst., being the Lodge or monthly meeting- night of the Free and Accepted Masons of the 22nd Regiment, held at the Crown, near Newgate, Mrs. Bell, the landlady of the house, broke open a door with a poker, by which means she got into an adjacent room, made two holes through the wall, and by that stratagem discovered the berets of Masonry, and knowing herself to be the first woman in the world that ever found out the secret is willing to make it known to all her sex. So that any lady that is desirous of learning the secrets of Freemasonry by applying to that well-learned woman, Mrs. Bell, who has lived fifteen years in and about Newgate, may be instructed in all secrets of Masonry. The following notice appeared December 2, 1772, in the Edinburgh Courant:
A few nights ago a regular Lodge of Freemasons was held at the Star in Watergate Street, in the City of Chester, when a woman who lodged in the house, concealed herself in a press in the Lodge room in order to satisfy a painful curiosity, she had a long time imbibed of discovering the reason of their secret meetings; but the ever wary and careful fraternity, making a timely and secret discovery of the place of her concealment assembled themselves within her hearing, and after repeating the punishment which they always inflict on every person whom they detect prying into their secrets, opened the press and took her out, almost dead with apprehension of what she was to suffer, which had such an effect on the humanity of the Brethren then present, that they unanimously agreed to dismiss her, without doing her any injury than that of severe reprimand for er folly.
The manuscript Constitutions of the Freemasons, dated 1693, have frequently been quoted in support of the theory that women were at one time admitted into Masonic guilds, which Manuscript states:
The one of the elders taking the Booke, and that he or she that is to bee made a Mason shall lay their hands thereon, and the charge shall be given. But Brother D. Murray Lyon holds that the word shee should be read they. Although the Ancient Charges forbid the admission or initiation of women into the Masonic Fraternity, several instances are asserted where women have been duly initiated either as the result of accident or design. The best known is the case of the Honorable Elizabeth Saint Leger, born 1693, who afterwards became, in 1713, the Honorable Mrs. Aldworth. She was a daughter of the first Viscount Doneraile, of Cork, Ireland.
The Viscount was an enthusiastic Freemason and, as was customary in the early part of the eighteenth century, Lodges were occasionally held in his own house. It is said that Miss Saint Leger hid herself one evening about the year 1710, previous to the initiation of a gentleman named Coppinger, in a room adjoining the one used for a Lodge-room. Due to repairs being made in the partitions, the young lady was able to remove a brick from the wall separating the two rooms, and witnessed the entire ceremony of initiation. In attempting to make her escape she inadvertently came across the Tyler who, armed with a sword, stood barring her exit. Her shrieks caused the members of the Lodge to rush to the spot, where, after considerable discussion and entreaty on the part of her brother, it was decided to initiate her into the Order and, it is said, in the course of time she became Master of the Lodge.
Some accounts state that Miss Saint Leger, while reading one afternoon in the room adjoining the Lodge-room fell asleep and upon awakening heard voices. She, quite naturally, listened and before she realized what was occurring she had been made acquainted with a part of the Masonic ceremony. She is said to have been initiated in Lodge No. 95, which still meets in Cork, but there is no record extant of her reception into the Vrder. In fact there has been much difference of conclusions regarding the matter.
There is, however, record of her being a subscriber to the Irish Book of Constitutions, 1744, and also of her frequent attendance at entertainments given under Masonic auspices, at which times she wore full Masonic regalia. When she died in 1775, at Cork, she was accorded the honor of a Masonic burial. Mrs Aldworth was cousin to general Antony Saint Leger, Park Hill, near Doncaster, who instituted the renowned Doncaster Saint Leger races and stakes in 1776 (see Aldworth, Hon. Mrs).
The most modern instance of a woman claiming to be a member of a recognized Masonic Lodge was a Mrs. Catherine Babington, the only daughter of Charles and Margaret Sweet, born at Prineess Furnaee, Kentucky. December 28, 1815.
Her Biography was written and published by her son, J. P. Babington, himself a member of Lee Lodge, No. 253, Taylorsville, North Carolina. It is claimed that she concealed herself in an adjoining room to that used by the Lodge at different times covering a Period of a year and a half and was finally discovered by an uncle of hers who questioned her and, upon finding that she was well versed and familiar with much of the Masonic ritual, she was, we are told, clothed in a suitable uniform of red flannel and taken to the Lodge, where she was obligated as a regular Mason but not admitted to membership. She kept herself posted in Freemasonry up until the time of her death, although she never attempted to visit a Lodge.
Mrs. Babington died in Shelby, North Carolina and many incidents are related of her use of Masonic signs and words in her travels through Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, Tennessee and other States. Most of these accounts are highly improbable, if not impossible. In the Femme et l'Enfant dans la FranoMafonnerie, meaning Woman and Child in Freemasonry, a French work by A. C. de la Rive, noted in Symbolism, September, 1922, page 251, there is a phrase relative to the so-called initiation of women in the Masonic Order.
The author says, "Two women had already benefitted as exceptions, Mademoiselle Fernig, Mistress of Dumouriez, and, under the Consulate, Madame de Xaintrailles." Brother Oswald Wirth, editor of Symbolism, informs his readers that the book quoted does not give any further reference to the initiation of Mademoiselle Fernig, and that vainly he has sought for the source or for any confirmation of the story in the publications of the period. Brother Albert Lantoine, author of the Histoire de la FrancMafonnetie Francaise, 1925, kindly made a further search for us and read the correspondence of the sisters Fernig, who survived the French Revolution, but discovered no additional light on the subject.
Helene, Countess Hadik Barkoozy, was initiated into the Lodge Egyenloseg, in Unghvar, which held a Warrant from the Grand Orient of Hungary. The Countess was born in 1833, was the sole heiress of Count Johann Barkoozy, and, being the last of her race, was permitted by the Hungarian Courts to take the place of a son.
She succeeded her father in the extensive Majorat at Barkoozy and in 1860 married Count Bela Hadik, Aide-de-Camp of the Emperor Maximilian of Mexico. With her inheritance she came into possession of an extensive Masonic library which she studied diligently and, being a highly educated lady, soon mastered the statements and was an ardent admirer of Masonic principles In 1875 she was able to secure entrance into the Lodge Egyenloseg. When the Grand Orient of Hungary heard of this violation of the Statutes, proceedings were immediately instituted against every member who had a part in the initiation and on a meeting of January 5, 1876, all accused were found guilty.
The Deputy Master of the Lodge was divested of all Masonic rights and expelled from the Order. The names of the officers were struck off the lists and the other members suspended for a period of three, six, or twelve months. On March 10, 1876, the Grand Lodge ruled: -- "the admission of Countess Hadik Barkoozy to be contrary to the laws and therefore null and void, forbids her admittance into any Lodge of their Jurisdiction, under penalty of erasion of the Lodge from the rolls, and requests all Grand Lodges to do the same. Also the Countess is requested to return the invalid Certificate which she holds within ten days, in default of which measures will be taken to confiscate immediately the Certificate whenever produced at any of the Lodges."
There is a tradition, which has never been officially confirmed, that a Mrs. Beaton, a Norfolk lady, of England, contrived to conceal herself behind the wainscoting in a Lodge-room where she learned the secret of the First Degree. She was discovered at this point and was herself initiated into the Masonic Fraternity.
A Mrs. Havard is said to have been proposed as an honorary member and initiated into Palladian Lodge, No. 120, at Hereford, Herefordshire, on the Roll of the R.n~lish Constitutions in the year 177() This Lodge was warranted in 1762 and celebrated the centenary of its existence in 1862. No record is available other than tradition of this incident, however.
Madame de Xaintrailles, wife of the French General of that name, was a member of an Adoptive Lodge, and it has been said that she was afterwards initiated into Freemasonry. No documentary proof is available, but the incident, supposed to have occurred at the close of the eighteenth century, is mentioned in the Histoire Pittoresque de la Franc-Maonnerie, (1843, by T. B. Clavel, pages 34-5; see also Xaintrailles, Madame de). A women's auxiliary was formed by the Lodge Sincerite, Klattau, Bohemia, whose Charter was recalled in September, 1780. The membership of the auxiliary was confined to wives of the members of the parent Lodge. An exception to this rule was made in favor of the Baroness Chanowsky de Langendorf.
The creation of this auxiliary contributed in no small degree to the difficulties which later befell the parent Lodge when their Charter was recalled. The auxiliary was known as the Three Crowned Hearts, and the underlying purposes were admirable. The members were strictly admonished to observe peace, harmony, union, unblemished behavior, not to utter words of slander, and the funds were used to assist a sick Sister or Brother in misfortune or unemployment. The Constitution and By-laws are in the archives of the National Museum in Prague, Czechoslovakia. A Master Mason managed the Lodge as its Master and the office of Treasurer was also held by a Master Mason but all other officers were women.
The Theosophical Society headed by Mrs. Annie Besant, has an Order which they describe as CoMasonr1y and which they claim is "Masonry for women." Formerly the title used Joint for the prefix, as in Transactisms, Dharma Lodge, Supreme Council, Universal Joint Freemasonry, No. 1, Benares, 1903 There is, however, no connection whatever between this organization and established Freemasonry (see Co-Masonry).
The remarkable case of the Chevalier D'Eon is discussed elsewhere (see D'Eon, Chevalier) and it is sufficient to say here that the signature as Junior Warden appended to a petition is decidedly far from feminine, and the results of the post-mortem examination (see Dictionary of National Biography, volume xii, page 384) determined the male sex of the individual conclusively. Simon Boubee, in his Etudes historiques et philosophiques sur La Franc- Magonnerie, meaning Historical and philosophical studies on Freemasonry, 1854, quoted by Albert Lantoine, September, 1920, Symbolisrne, Paris, refers to the allusion in the above work to women of rank and their knowledge of the Masonic Institution. Brother Lantoine says the author is not afraid of advancing the statement that "the Masonry of Adoption preceded Symbolic Masonry in France and at its head is found presiding that Queen, the widow of Charles I, of whom English Masons glorify themselves of being the children, and whom even yet they invoke in moments of distress, when they cry for assistance, A.. M.. L.. E.. D.. L.. V..," these being the initials of a French phrase meaning substantially help me, ye sons of the widow. Of course, the sons of the widow in this case have reference to the Masonic followers of Hiram, who was a widow's son, and also in this particular instance having an allusion in the statement to the House of Stuart, the effort to place the son of a widow on the British throne giving a political flavor to the expression and in that way adding a little weight to the old claims of a Masonic nature built upon the romantic history of the Scottish royal family and their adherents in their exile on the Continent of Europe and especially in France. But let us see on what grounds Boubee proceeds with his assertions. This is what he writes:
That widow, of Charles I, daughter of Henry IV, and sister of Louis XIII, returned to the Court of France after the death of her husband, and her greatest pleasure was to tell her nephew of the heroic efforts that were made in England by the sons of the widow to reestablish her son on the throne. The ladies of the Court were not strangers to these confidences.. She made known to then the words and signs which formed the tie of their center of union, and she thus initiated them to the mysteries of the Institution of which she was the Protectress, and which had not hitherto penetrated into France. These paragraphs illustrate the readiness of the French writer to mix up the origin of Lodges of Adoption with those of Lodges of Freemasons, the first comprising both sexes, the latter restricted to men. Nevertheless the item is of interest to us, if only as showing how legends live and grow.
A quaint song contained in A Defense of Freemasonry, published anonymously in 1765, curiously refers to the possible (we cannot well believe the writer to have meant the probable) initiation of women. The King is appended and the reader can construe it for himself.
ADVICE TO THE LADIES BY BROTHER RILEY It has oft of the females been said (But you'll own the report is not true) That they are not Freemasons made, For they cannot their passions subdue That they never can subject their will Nor be bound any secrets to keep Nor never can keep their tongues still, Except when in bed fast asleep. See how common fame will tell lies And scandalous stories retail! But Masons those always despise, Who against the fair sex dare to rail; There are several females renowned For sentiments truly refined Whose conduct is constantly found By the Craft to be just, true, and kind. The thrice mystic number of III,III,III, And the mystical number of III, The Muses and Graees divine, Are the damsels I mean that are free The Cardinal virtues so bright, Who preside o'er each principal sign And Cynthia who governs the night In the lodges resplendently shine. But 'tis not these fair ones alone, For Innocence kindly each night Vouchsafes to deseend from her thrones To clothe ev'ry WIason in white; There's Faith, Hope and Charity fair, Who teach us the ladder to climb, As nightly the fabric lve rear, By industry, patience and time. Then ladies attend to advice, And listen to what I impart In virtue and honor be nice Learn to govern the tongue and the heart In short you must copy the fair, Whom I have just mentioned before, And then we will try, I declare To admit you within the lodge door.
This song is bound up with a number of Masonic curiosities in Brother Henry Sadler's most interesting and highly instructive Reprints and Revelations. The volume also contains the remarkable communication to George Faulkner, printer. This "Letter from the Grand Mistress of the Freemasons" is ascribed to the sardonic Dean Swift, but omitted from the more recent editions of that author's works.
Perhaps its want of interest to the general public may have had something to do with that exclusion. But it is of interest to the Craft because of the transparent intention of its writer to lampoon some attempt to expose the secrets of Freemasonry. Brother W. J. Chetwode Crawley, Treasurer, Grand Lodge of Ireland, painstaking, skilled and scholarly in literary and Masonic matters, considers it to be a serious faced travesty of the pamphlet, The Grand Mystery of Freemasons Discovered, of which a first edition was published in 1724, and a second in 1725. Brother Enoch T. Carson of Cincinnati had a fine facsimile made of the first edition and issued the work as the initial publication of his self-sacrificing Masonic Archeological series. A reprint of the second edition of the Gruntl Mystery is in Gould's History of Freemasonry.
Brother Sadler found the names of both Pope and Swift on the roll of the Lodge held prior to 1730 at the "Goat at foot of the Haymarket." It is further pointed out that in 1722-7 Swift was in London, the guest of Pope at Twickenham. Brother Chetwode Crawley observes that Swift "sunned himself in the society of Arbuthnot and Pope, and shared with them all the convialities of London from which he had so long been absent. If they took part in Freemasonry, we may be sure he joined them. And there is no doubt about Arbuthnot or Pope. To make his connection with Freemasonry doubly sure, Swift, as we have already had occasion to indicate, took on himself the defense of the Craft by a reductio ad absurdum of the spurious rituals then current in London."
The "Letter" starts out with the following lines: "Seeing it is of late become a fashion in town, in writing to all the world, to address to you (he was the editor of the Dublin Journal, a printer and a Freemason), our society of Female Freemasons hath also chosen you for our printer, and so, without preface, art, or embellishment (for truth anti a short paper needeth none of them) our female lodge has the whole mystery as well as any Lodge in Europe, with proper instructions in writing; and what will seem more strange to you, without the least taint of perjury." Then follows a whimsical statement of a traveler having supplied the ladies with full particulars of Masonic secrets as they had been imparted by a Lodge whose members were so intoxicated that the candidate was never pledged to preserve inviolate the information that had been given to him. Nevertheless, an old song quoted in A Defense of freemasonry says: "The fair from our rights are forever debarred," and so far as this refers to membership, it finds general acceptance.
The following associations are worthy of mention, although very few details are available as to their rules and rituals: L'Ordre des Dames Ecossaises de Hospice du Mont Thabor; Order of Knights and Ladies of Joy, founded in 1696 in Paris, under the protection of Bacchus and Venus and whose printed statutes are still in existence; the German Order of the Rose, established in Germany in 1784 by Francis Matthaus Grossinger; the Order of Harmony, also founded by Grossinger on the collapse of the Order of the Rose, in 1788; the Order of the Lovers of Pleasure, established on December 25, 1808, by a number of young officers of the French Army. This was a military Order which is said to have been much favored by Napoleon I. There was also the Society known as the Mopses, which admitted women to all offices except that of Grand Master, who was elected for life. Subordinate to him, however, there was a Grand Mistress, also elected for life.
A number of these organizations related directly or indirectly to the Craft, as Eastern Star, Order of the Rainbow (for girls), Indifferents, Order of Fendeurs et Fendeuses, Order des Felicitaires, Companions of Penelope, Feuillants, Order of Perseverance, Knights and Nymphs of the Rose, Society of the Chain, L'Ordre des Chevaliers et Chevalieres de l'Ancre or Anchor, Orden der Gartnerinnen, and others will be found in this work under their significant title words.
Brother Dudley Wright (Woman and Freemasonry London,1922) treats the subject at length; there is also a section upon it by Brother Albert Lantoine (Histoire de la Franc-Mafennerie Frangaise, 1925, pages 375-93) a study of the matter from the eighteenth century to our own times; a paper "Woman and Freemasonry," Brother Gordon P. G. Hills (Transactions, Quatuor Coronati Lodge, 1920, volume xxiii, page 63) contains several curious instances where the Masonic secrets are said to have been acquired by women, and Brother Hills says further (page 77) "Women are not eligible to become Freemasons be cause our Craft is a men's Society," a point well to keep in mind.
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