WOMEN IN FREEMASONRY
Pre-dating the Townswomen's Guild founded in 1929 and the Women's Institute in 1915 the principle of co masonry – men and women together - was ‘Imported’ from France in 1902. But some of the members became disenchanted with the French governing body. They felt that the departure from aspects of the ritual and the traditional style would lead to a similar state that had arisen in regular Freemasonry in the mid-18th century.
Some members resigned and formed a society from which was to emerge the Honourable Fraternity of Antient Masonry, retaining the Masonic principles of a male and female order. On 5 June 1908 a Grand Lodge was formed with the first and only male Grand Master; a Reverend Brother His successor commenced the continuing line of female Grand Masters. Approximately ten years later it was decided to restrict admission to women only.
Shortly after the title was changed to the Order of Women Freemasons history was repeated again which caused a group to break away and form The Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons.
To administer these two female groups there are now two Grand Lodges running in parallel was almost a carbon copy performance, but the time for a Union, similar to that which took place in male Freemasonry in1813, is yet to come.
Nevertheless it is interesting to note that the personal address of ‘Sister’ was discontinued soon after the formation in 1908. Total female emancipation has not changed the ritual as the form of address of ‘Brother’ and ‘Worshipful Master’ is retained as in male Freemasonry.
While the male United Grand Lodge of England, in a statement of 10th March 1999, acknowledged the regularity and sincerity of women’s Freemasonry they do not officially recognise it. While relations between the two groups are cordial and co-operative, with some husbands and wives belonging to their separate organisation, their members do not participate in each other’s ceremonies.
The two female Masonic fraternities which practice the same Masonic rituals as their male counterparts, and pursue the similar charitable purposes, are