Friday, December 31, 2010

Order of Women Freemasons

The Order of Women Freemasons is based in the United Kingdom and is the larger of the two Masonic bodies for women only. Its headquarters is at 27 Pembridge Gardens in London.


The Order was founded in 1908 as the Honourable Fraternity of Antient Masonry, and formed by a small group of men and women who seceded from the Co-Masonic movement. They disagreed with the theosophical precepts and the governance of the Co-Masonic organisation and wanted to return to the traditional workings of English Masonry. The leader and first Grand Master was W. F. Cobb, Rector of St Ethelburga’s church in the City of London. By the time he resigned from the Order in 1912, six Lodges had been consecrated. The second and all subsequent Grand Masters have been women.
The sanctions of United Grand Lodge of England against any of their members who associated with “irregular bodies” of Freemasons, including those admitting women, meant that there were few male candidates after 1910. In 1920 a petition was sent from the Order to UGLE for recognition as a bona fide Masonic body but this was refused. After that men were no longer accepted as candidates into the Order although there were still a few who, distancing themselves from their own Obedience, chose to remain in high office. In 1935 Peter Slingsby, the male Grand Secretary, died and the remaining male Grand Lodge officer, Deputy Grand Master Peter Birchall, was asked to resign. From this date the Order has been exclusively female. Relations with UGLE are now cordial.
In 1913 a small group who wished to introduce the Holy Royal Arch degree in an unorthodox manner were expelled from the Order and founded their own female Order, the Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasonry.
The degree of the Holy Royal Arch was legitimately introduced in 1929 and the Mark Degree in 1946. Other Higher and Further Degrees including the Chivalric Degrees were introduced in the late 1940s and the 1950s. All these are administered by the same Grand Lodge as the Craft Degrees.
The Honourable Fraternity of Antient Masonry took as its subtitle in 1958 ‘The Order of Women Freemasons’, to make its single-sex nature more obvious, and it is by this name that it is known today.
The Order currently comprises nearly 300 working Craft Lodges, based in the British Isles, Australia, Canada, South Africa, Spain and Zimbabwe. There are approximately 7,250 members, at last count. The workings and Constitution of the Order parallel those of the United Grand Lodge of England.


The headquarters, Grand Lodge administration and Grand Temple are at 27 Pembridge Gardens, Notting Hill Gate, London. The building was given to the Order by a member in 1924. It is used as a headquarters and has an "extensive Grand Temple" plus "a second, smaller Temple".

Grand Masters

The current Grand Master is Zuzanka Penn.

Zuzanka Penn (in the center) with other office bearers

Grand Masters of the Order:
  • William Frederick Cobb 1908 – 1912
  • Marion Lindsay Halsey 1912 – 1927
  • Adelaide Daisy Litten 1928 – 1938
  • Lucy Bertram O’Hea 1938 – 1948
  • Mary Gordon Muirhead Hope 1948 – 1964
  • Mildred Rhoda Low 1964 – 1976
  • Frances Hall 1976 – 1989
  • Brenda Irene Fleming-Taylor 1989 – 2010
  • Zuzanka Penn 2010 -

Monday, December 27, 2010

Grand Orient de France

The Grand Orient de France (GODF) is the largest of several Masonic organizations in France and the oldest in Continental Europe, founded in 1733.

Freemasonry in France started when English merchants started lodges, with the first lodge being started in Dunkirk. The Grand Orient de France was founded in 1733.

French Revolution

The Lodge Les Neuf Sœurs was a prominent lodge attached to the Grand Orient de France that was particularly influential in organising French support for the American Revolution and later in the intellectual ferment that preceded the French Revolution. Benjamin Franklin was a member of this Lodge when he was serving as liaison in Paris.
Some notable French revolutionaries were Freemasons, including Voltaire, Marquis de Condorcet, Mirabeau, Georges Danton, the Duke of Orléans, and Hébert.
Louis Philippe II
Louis Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, a leader of the Liberal Aristocracy, was the Grand Master of the Grand Orient at the time of the French Revolution.

The Catholic Encyclopedia alleges that the Masonic book La Franc-Maçonnerie, écrasée in 1746 predicted the program of the French Revolution, and claims to quote documents of the Grand Orient of France where Freemasonry claims credit for the French Revolution. However, the New Catholic Encyclopedia of 1967 says that modern historians see Freemasonry's role in the French Revolution as exaggerated.
In 1804 it merged with the rival Grand Lodge, the Rite Ecossais.
In France Napoleon III established a dictatorship over official French freemasonry, appointing first Prince Lucien Murat and later Marshal Magnan to closely supervise the craft and suppress any hints of opposition to the regime.

Differences with the United Grand Lodge of England

In 1877, at the instigation of the Protestant priest Frédéric Desmons, it allowed those who had no belief in a Supreme being - which the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) and related Lodges regarded as a Masonic Landmark - to be admitted.
It was this decision that has been the root cause of the schism between the Grand Orient (and those lodges that followed it), and the rest of Freemasonry. It is a schism in Freemasonry which continues to this day. It is argued that the definition is ambiguous, that Anderson's Landmarks are his own collection and interpretation of the historical landmarks, and that changes in both interpretation and practice have occurred before and since.
The decision was not universally approved in France. By 1894 many lodges had split off in protest and formed the Grande Loge de France (GLdF) In addition, a third Grand Lodge, the Grande Loge Nationale Francaise (GLNF) was founded by the United Grand Lodge of England in 1913 (GLNF is the only one of the three that is recognized as being "regular" by those Freemasons that follow the Anglo tradition of requiring a belief in Deity.).
The GODF believes in freedom of conscience, which allows them to admit atheists. On the other hand, those Grand Lodges following the English tradition require their members to profess a belief in deity. The Anglo-Masonic Jurisdictions withdrew recognition from the Grand Orient over this issue, and they now deem the GODF "irregular".

The Grand Orient de France remained an important part of French society after the Second World War. One of the Grand Masters was Jacques Mitterrand, brother of the later Socialist President François Mitterrand

Politics and religion

Unlike the Anglo-Masonic Grand Lodges (especially those affiliated to the United Grand Lodge of England), the Grand Orient of France allows the discussion of political issues and religion in lodge. he Grand Orient itself takes political positions on certain moral issues. It sees as one of its missions protecting the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity (this also being the motto of the French Republic and the GODF). In addition, it expects its members who hold a public office to fight for its values. in order to forward its stated purpose of exerting an influence on ideas, the Grand Master holds regular talks with elected representatives, including the Prime Minister

Female membership

It was one of the first Masonic orders to allow some of its lodges to become adoptive (i.e. to admit women although it does not initiate them). In 1774, following the introduction of Rites of Adoption in several of its lodges, it issued an edict authorising them, the Duchess of Bourbon being elected first Grand Mistress of France.
For many years, the Grand Orient would not allow its lodges to initiate women, but did recognize and receive women who were made Freemasons in other jurisdictions. This changed in 2010, and currently the Grand Orient is in the process of not refusing the initiation of women.

Lodges chartered by GODF outside France

The GODF has currently the following lodges outside of France:
  • Atlantide Lodge, New York City-NY (1900)
  • Pacifica Lodge, San Francisco-CA (1986)
  • Lafayette Lodge no. 89, Washington, D.C. (1989)
  • Art et Lumière Lodge, Los Angeles-CA (1990)
  • Zora (Dawn) Lodge, Belgrade (Serbia) (1992)
  • Vernost (Fidelity) Lodge, Belgrade (Serbia) (2002)
  • Ujedinjenje (Unification) Lodge, Belgrade (Serbia) (2006)
  • Harmonija (Harmony) Lodge, Serbia (2008)
  • Force et Courage Lodge, Montréal (Québec) (1999)
  • Hiram Lodge, London (UK) (1899)