This our dear readers is the rarest of rare occasions. We are featuring a cross post on our blogs. This topic we feel is so important that it must get as much publicity as humanly possible. The issue of the continuing inhuman practice of gender segregation has no place in 21st century Freemasonry. It is for the very sake of the Crafts future health and well being that we post this. We urge all Freemasons, regardless of Rite, affiliation or obedience to please do the right thing and contribute to this cause. We owe this as citizens of humanity.
Women and Freemasonry, From the Enlightenment to Today
Call for Contributions
Information Published on Thursday, May 21, 2009 by Fabula (source: Cécile Révauger)
Deadline: September 15, 2009
University of Bordeaux and Museum of Aquitaine
June 17-19, 2010, Bordeaux
Women are still absent today from the majority of Masonic lodges. Few rational arguments can be made to justify such an exclusion. That of tradition, the most widespread, only applies to the Constitutions of Anderson, and do not appear explicitly in the Old Charges of the Masons. The lodges of adoption were sometimes considered as a substitute Masonry. It would be erroneous, however, to minimize their importance and the significance which they had in their time, as Margaret Jacob and Janet Burke have recently showed. These lodges of adoption, which were born in Holland, and then in France, at the time of the enlightenment, are certainly characteristic of the limits of participation of women at that time, because of their very elitist and aristocratic character. However, they conveyed a certain number of values, if only by their ritual, and accorded women an unprecedented place in the public sphere, comparable with the salons.
Were these lodges satisfied to reflect the society of their time, or did they anticipate certain evolutions and contribute to the emancipation of women? To what point are they representative of enlightenment society? To a significant degree, these lodges of adoption disappeared at the same time as the enlightenment, to reappear in a quite different form in the following century in the United States (the Eastern Star). The Masonic world of the nineteenth century was almost exclusively male. It would be interesting to seek the reasons for such an absence of women. It is necessary to await the end of the nineteenth century, with women such as Annie Besant, Madame Blavatsky, Marie Deraismes, Clémence Royer or Louise Michel to find a feminine presence in the lodges, sometimes, as in the case of Annie Besant, in close connection with the Theosophist Society.
We will endeavor to identify the evolution of feminine participation, on the one hand through mixed Masonry, which appeared at the end of the nineteenth century, and also through specifically feminine obediences, which date only from the twentieth. All these women fought for equality, but some hoped to reach it within mixed structures, and others by autonomous paths. We will be interested in the choices of manner of organization and of ritual, as well as the social composition, of the mixed and feminine lodges.
We will inquire about their openness to society, or on the contrary about their wish for discretion, on the nature of their work. These obediences developed only in certain countries, we will try to see for what reasons. At the same time we will explain the Masonic organizations and their individual characteristics.
We will try to determine the weight of the various factors in these areas: - The cultural, social and political factor: is there a direct link between the development of mixed and feminine obediences, social progress as regards emancipation of women, and the force of the feminist currents in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries? - The religious factor: can one observe different behaviors according to the religions? Is the question of feminine initiation posed in a specific way in the Catholic, Protestant, Islamic or Orthodox countries? - The Masonic factor: the line of fracture between Latin Freemasonry and Anglo-Saxon Freemasonry, dating from 1877 and the decision of the Grand Orient of France to grant a full freedom of conscience to its members and no longer to require belief in God. But curiously, it also translated into terms of exclusion or recognition of women, even if it is immediately advisable to qualify the matter with regard to obediences known as "Latin."
There exist several degrees of exclusion today: women can be regarded as noninitiables, as is still formally the case in the United Kingdom, the USA, and in all obediences which give allegiance to the United Grand Lodge of England. In other cases, the presence of women is accepted and even encouraged, but in structures that are not recognized as Masonic, although they are regarded as serving with the male lodges thanks to their charitable actions (the Eastern Star). Finally, obediences known as Latin are divided on the question of the admission of women. Some are mixed, others are discussing the question of co-Masonry, others still refuse it on principle.
Can one speak about Masonic universalism, or is Freemasonry determined by gender? It will be advisable to inquire at the same time about the reasons for the exclusion of women, in all these forms, with all these nuances, and about the specific types of feminine freemasonry in time and space, from the first lodges to those of today in Europe, Asia and the Americas. We will also be able to inquire about the view which the feminists had about Freemasonry, and also about the lodges of adoption and contemporary Freemasonry. We will thus encourage a diversity of approaches and desire that the historical and geographical scope be the broadest possible, in order to understand the differences as well as the similarities, and to understand the evolution.
Summaries of papers should be accompanied by a curriculum vitae (2000 characters in all) and must be received by Cécile Révauger before September 15, 2009. mail to: Cecile.revau...@wanadoo.fr
Cécile Révauger Université Michel de Montaigne Bordeaux3 Domaine Universitaire , 33607 Pessac Cedex France