Women in Freemasonry

In 1892, Marie Derazmes, a writer and famous women's rights activist, was initiated into the Free Thinkers Lodge (Les Libres-Penseurs) in Le Peck, France. This initiation was done against the rules of the Grand Orient of France to which that lodge belonged. The lodge Master was suspended and the lodge closed. This did not stop this very persistent woman from pursuing her Masonic interests. In 1893, with the help of her Masonic friends and several women, she founded a Grand Lodge under the name La Grande Loge Symbolique Ecossaise. The name of the (only) founding lodge was "Human Rights" (Le Droit Humain). This Grand Lodge, open to both men and women, was the first Masonic organization, which was later renamed "Le Droit Humain" (The Rights of Man) In 1900, they adopted the Ancient Recognized Scottish Ritual for use in their lodges.

Two years later, Annie Besant, a member of the "Human Rights" Lodge in Paris, opened the "Human Duty" Lodge in London. Women’s Freemasonry was thus established in England. In 1925, the "Order of Ancient, Free and Recognized Masons for Men and Women" was founded in London. The first Masonic lodge in the United States was opened in 1903 in Charleroi, Pennsylvania. A few years later, members of the Freemasonic groups registered their own grand lodge in Washington under the name "American Federation for Human Rights." The system and ideas of "Human Rights" spread very quickly throughout the world. Today co-masonry is active in more than 60 countries as a loose federation of masonic organizations under the name "Ordre Maconnique Mixte International - Le Droit Humain". The only significant difference between Le Droit Humain and any other regular Masonic group is their acceptance of both men and women as members.

Many women felt the need to practice Speculative Freemasonry separately from men. Given that the same need for exclusivity has existed in most male Freemasons for the past 300 years, it's easy to understand. One of the first women's lodges appeared in Boston around 1790 under the name "St. Anne's Lodge." The Master of this lodge was Hannah Mather Crocker (1763-1829). Her letters, which mention Freemasonry, were published in Boston in 1815. Several female members of the "Human Rights" Lodge from London founded the "Honorable Brotherhood of Ancient Freemasonry" in 1908, which changed its name to the "Order of Women Freemasons" in 1958. To this day, membership is exclusively female, and the craft ritual of emulation is practiced. Another women's grand lodge was founded in England in 1913 under the name "Honorable Brotherhood of Ancient Freemasons".

After many years of work within adoptive lodges, first under the auspices of the Grand Orient of France and then under the sponsorship of the Grand Lodge of France, women in France felt the need for a radical change in the way they practiced Freemasonry. The emancipation of women in European societies in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries also influenced their attitude towards Freemasonry. In 1935, the Grand Lodge of France granted complete autonomy to female adoptive lodges. This was followed by a period of inactivity due to the political situation in Europe before and during World War II. On September 17, 1945, with the help of the Grand Lodge of France, the Women's Masonic Union of France (Union Maconnique Feminine de France) was founded. In 1952, the name was changed to the Women's Grand Lodge of France (Grande Loge Feminine de France). They stopped practicing the rituals of the Adoptive Rite in 1959, when they started using the craft rituals of the Ancient Recognized Scottish Order. Then, some of the lodges introduced the practice of modern and traditional versions of the French Rite, as well as the Scottish Rectified Rite. In cooperation with the "Cosmos" Lodge, which still practices the Adoptive Rite, this rite was re-introduced in 1977, as one of the rites practiced in the Women's Grand Lodge of France

Today, women's Masonic lodges exist in most European countries, America, and other continents. Grand Lodges have been established in England, France, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, Portugal, Greece, Turkey, Chile, Serbia, Argentina, and Brazil, with numerous developing jurisdictions.

Some women's grand lodges are very active in sponsoring and chartering lodges in other countries. One of the strongest jurisdictions to emerge in 1981 is the Women's Grand Lodge of Belgium, with thirty-five lodges, three of which are in the United States. As is the case with male Freemasonry, various women's groups practice different rites and have different understandings of Masonic philosophy and practice. Even so, there is no shortage of women interested in Freemasonry; there are just not enough male Freemasons willing to acknowledge the ability of women to practice the same rituals and study the same teachings, to achieve positive goals.

Women's Freemasonry is also active in Serbia. Under the protection of the Women's Grand Lodge of France, the Belgrade "triangle" under the name "Rose of the Winds" was founded in 1994. The increase in the number of members of the triangle enabled the establishment of the first female Masonic Lodge in Belgrade under the name "Vera Fides" in 2007. Over the years, three more lodges were founded - "Danica," "Aurora," and "Naisa," and in 2022, under the sponsorship of the Women's Grand Lodge of France, the Women's Grand Lodge of Serbia was founded.

According to some estimates, today there are over two hundred thousand women, worldwide, practicing Freemasonry and Freemasonry.

Maria Derazmes

Medal of the Grand Women's Lodge of Serbia