Friday, September 3, 2010
THE FIRST FEMALE FREEMASON - MARIA DERAISMES
Maria Deraismes (August 17, 1828 – February 6, 1894) was a French author and major pioneering force for women’s rights.
Born in Paris, Maria Deraismes grew up in Pontoise in the city’s northwest outskirts. From a prosperous middle class family, she was well educated and raised in a literary environment that led to her authoring several literary works but soon developed a reputation as a very capable communicator. She became active in promoting women’s rights and, in 1866, joined the Société de la revendication des droits de la femme, a feminist organization advancing the cause of education for women. In 1869, she founded L’Association pour le droit des femmes with Leon Richer.Following the ouster of Napoleon III, she understood the new politics of the day meant a more moderate approach under the Third Republic in order for feminism to survive and not be marginalized by the new breed of male power brokers emerging at the time. Deraismes’ work brought her recognition in Great Britain and an influence upon American activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton who met her in Paris in 1882 following Deraismes’ breakthrough membership in the Freemasons. A year later, she and Georges Martin organized the first Masonic lodge in the world to allow both men and women as members.
Maria Deraismes was initiated—on January 14, 1882—into Lodge “Les Libres Penseurs” of Pecq, a small village to the west of Paris.
She was the first female Freemason, symbolising initiatory equality.
Eleven years later, on April 4, 1893, Maria Deraismes and Georges Martin, a well-known mason, created in Paris the first co-masonic Lodge. Out of this co-masonic Lodge came the birth of the Grande Loge Symbolique Ecossaise “Le Droit Humain”, establishing the equality of men and women, out of which, later, came the birth of the International Order of Co-Freemasonry “LE DROIT HUMAIN”.
With other support of Suffragettes such as Hubertine Auclert, Maria Deraismes worked to achieve political emancipation for women, standing as a symbolic candidate in the elections of 1885. On her death in 1894, Maria Deraismes was interred in the Montmartre Cemetery. Her complete writings were published in 1895 and much information on her work can be found at the Bibliothèque Marguerite Durand in Paris.
To honor her memory, a street in Paris was named for her, and a statue was erected in a small park. The town square in St. Nazaire was also named in her honor.