The Provincial Grand Lodge of Munster has released an updated edition of John Day’s “Memoir of the Lady Freemason” and I couldn’t be more excited about it.
Largely because the re-release contains a considerable lot about Day himself, about whom I previously knew only a little more than I do about Ralph P. Lester.
Oh, and I got to contribute to the appendix 🙂
The new edition was officially released during the kick off the Cork Heritage Week in County Cork, Ireland, in August. Amid the initial speeches and celebrations, the Provincial Grand Lodge of Munster Grand Librarian and Archivist, W.Bro. David J. Butler, presented the first copy of the fifth edition to The Rt. Hon. The Lord Mayor of Cork, Councilor John Sheehan.
For those who don’t already know, “Memoir of the Lady Freemason,” of which the first edition was prepared and published in 1914, is about as close to a definitive biography as we have about the life and times of Elizabeth St. Leger Aldworth. Though the Provincial Grand Lodge of Munster’s website still refers to Aldworth as “the only Lady Freemason” – they’ve always been very friendly and cordial with me – it’s more accurate to say she was the first known woman Freemason in the modern history of the Craft.
Freemasons, of all stripes, generally pride themselves on tolerance. They view themselves as philosophically advanced, are often charitable and, generally, would not dream of suppressing anyone.
Except each other.
I’ve observed situations in which Brothers from Obediences not in amity with each other dislike the other based on their Obedience. They make vague references to their Obligation, as if that ever would justify acting un-Masonically toward anyone. They, as often, find other ways to rationalize some strikingly irrational behavior.
I’m not an expert on Masonic Amity protocols, far from it. I am but a common Brother with no ambitions to ever be in such a position where I would need to understand those protocols.
What I am pretty good at is observation.
I’ve had more than a fair number of opportunities to observe Malecraft Freemasons. In particular, I’ve noticed Malecraft Freemasons often take a similar journey between their first encounter with a woman Freemason – or male Co-Mason for that matter – to accepting that such Freemasons exist.
This journey, in my observation, follows a series of stages, not all of which are always completed. Sometimes the sojourner remains in one stage, may skip a stage and they may regress to a previous stage. I’ve seen this enough to recognize that there are, in general, five stages and that they fall in a predictable order.
The stages, in my experience, are very like Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s five stages of dying and grief.
As I’ve observed them, the five Stages of a Malecraft Mason acceptance of Co-Masonry and Femalecraft Masonry are as follows.
Step One: Denial
“You can’t possibly be a Freemason”; “there are no women Freemasons,” and other such unintended insults.
Truly, some of these gentlemen have looked me in the eye and told me I don’t exist. If I’m the first Co-Mason they are faced with, and if they had no prior warning they would encounter me, this is the usually the first response.
I try not to debate reality with them at this point. It’s not *my* problem, and I won’t make it my problem. Very often, my contact with them ends here. No blood, no foul.
I do, however, know from experience what – if they don’t remain in this stage – will come next.
Step Two: Anger
This often follows quickly on the heels of denial. It carries with it illogical statements and not a few more – this time intended – insults. “This isn’t what I was told.” “This isn’t right.” “This isn’t fair.” “Why me?” “You’re out to get me.” “Someone violated their Obligation. . . .”
I usually make myself scarce at this stage. I’m no psychologist, and even if I wanted to debate it with them, they’re not interested in listening during this stage. I also don’t deal well with anger. So I remember that I’ve done nothing to be the target of it; it’s not my problem, and I won’t make it my problem.
Very often, my contact with them ends in this stage, and, so far as I know, they remain in this stage. Forever.
If I get away fast enough, there will be no blood, no foul.
Some of them, however, get in touch with me again; once they’ve moved on – on their own or, perhaps, with the help of other Brothers – to the next stage.
Step Three: Bargaining
Out of the blue, a Malecraft Mason who has acted toward me as a denying, angry Brother will re-establish contact me. At this point, they often inform me that they can accept me as a Brother under certain circumstances.
For instance, they’ll tell me they won’t share the secrets, and they won’t have “Masonic intercourse” with me (I always wonder if that would tickle). They may also list a number of other requirements; they can accept me as a Brother so long as their terms are respected.
Sometimes I’ll reply that I already know the secrets, and that he and I share them already regardless of whether he wants to get into them.
Mostly, though, I just let it go on from there. It’s not *my* problem, and I won’t make it my problem.
In my observation, there is roughly a 50-50 chance they will get in touch with me yet again. I’m cool if they do or they don’t. No Blood, no foul. This is a much cooler stage than anger, but I have seen them regress, so I’m not too pushy about keeping in touch with them during this stage. They’re on their own, so far as I’m concerned, but if the progress, they will arrive at the next stage.
Step Four: Soul Searching
Under the Kübler-Ross model, the fourth stage of dying and grief is depression. My observation with the average Malecraft Mason’s journey toward, and possibly to, acceptance of Femalecraft and Co-Masons is they do experience something akin to depression but it’s not depression. It’s more like a deep, introspective brooding. Sometimes they share it with me.
They wonder why they came to believe what they did about who their Brothers are. They ponder if they’d been intentionally fed misinformation or whether they just misunderstood. They wonder if what they learned before was in reference only to Malecraft Masonry and has no real bearing on Co-Masons or Femalecraft Masons. They might even refer to Albert Mackey’s assertion that women Freemasons, once made, cannot be unmade, but there are many ways to deny their rights and privileges as Freemasons.
The Malecraft Mason at this stage might wonder whether this is just, right, or fair.
If I debate or discuss such things with them at all, it will be during this stage. No, it’s not *my* problem, but at this stage, they are less likely, than in the other stages, to try to make it my problem. I can give full vent to every bit of fraternal compassion I feel for them without concern that I’ll be bloodied or fouled. I’m helping a Brother to, so far as he wants me to, understand himself. And that’s a good thing.
I know many Brothers who remain in this stage a very long time. There is one final stage.
Step Five: Acceptance
They get it.
It’s often at this stage the Malecraft Brother informs me, usually quite suddenly, that he has no issues with the existence of Co-Masonry or Femalecraft Masonry. Of course, we are all Brothers linked by the same mystic tie under the canopy of heaven, and he doesn’t understand why *I* have such a problem with it.
I still don’t think it’s my problem but maybe it is. Maybe I should give it some thought.
And so it goes.
Malecraft Masons aren’t alone in exhibiting this sort of baffling behavior. I’ve seen much the same when a group of Co-Masons meets with a group of Malecraft Masons for the first time. I’ve noticed that, very often, each group of Brothers at this initial meeting considers themselves superior to the other and firmly believes the other group agrees with their assessment. They also often assume the other group is grateful that they are talking at all, that the other group will commence an obligatory cow-tow, but real equality will have to be by consent of the “superior” group. It’s not meeting on the level but (shrug) it happens.
And things often get pretty tense from there.
I have also noticed that these bodies of Freemasons often will move through the same stages described above, now writ large; micro and macro.
Based on that observation, I’ve come to conclude that the five stages of Masonic acceptance will be the same at a far larger scale when un-amity-bound Masonic obediences begin talking to each other, as I suspect they eventually will. Will these conversations necessarily be bound to these five stages or will it be possible for those Brothers to actually meet on the level and act on the plumb?
They all know how to do that. Right?
Well, here’s hoping we can all find a way to at least get along and accept each other. 🙂
Nothing like a bit of righteous indignation to kick off a blog.
Recently, a participant in a philosophical group supported by my mother lodge in Washington told me that he had been approached by a Malecraft Mason – a stranger to him – who cautioned him that the Brothers of my lodge are not “real” Freemasons.
“Why would he say that?” the participant asked me.
The order to which I belong is well into its second century in North America. There are many, many Brothers who came before me, who labored and lived lives as Co-Masons.
I’ve been a Freemason more than a decade and I’ve spent much of that time writing about the history of women-only Freemasonry and mixed or Co-Freemasonry. I can name women operative masons from the cathedral-building period of the middle ages. I can document at least one woman Freemason during the entire period of the modern Craft (and there were more). I’ve presented papers at Masonic and non-Masonic conferences and my work has been published in Masonic and academic journals. I am friends with many Malecraft Masons – including not a few with “grand” in their title – who call me “brother”.
Co-Masons have been – and are – doctors, lawyers, waiters, tailors, construction workers, writers, politicians, web designers, journalists, accountants, social workers, yoga instructors, musicians, bouncers, executives, retailers, they come from all the walks of life. Co-Masons are nothing new – there’s a Co-Mason on Australia’s 50 dollar bill – and we are well into the 21st Century.
Despite all that, I and other Co-Masons still have to put up with the defamations of Malecraft Masons of a certain ilk who are genuinely freaked by the idea of woman in an apron.
I’m pretty sure the Malecraft Mason who told the participant – a non-Mason – that I and other Brothers in my lodge aren’t “real,” is this guy:
If that isn’t him, it’s a close enough approximation.
And, yeah, sure y’betcha, I could just ignore him and others like him, not give him the satisfaction of a response, turn the other cheek, show myself the better person and Freemason, let it go and yada-yada-yada.
Co-Masons have done that for generations. Untold thousands before me endured Masonic jewelry ripped from lapels, around necks, and fingers. They have had their premises broken into and their equipment stolen; they have been called out in the street, arrested, jailed, and legislated against for being the kind of Freemasons who are cool with both genders in lodge.
Words, by comparison, aren’t that big a deal. Right?
I’m just not feeling it right now. For once, I don’t want this guy to go unanswered, unchallenged. I don’t know that I’ve heard it all, but I feel I’ve heard enough to be expert in the shite this guy has to say. I feel equally qualified to respond.
So, to how many shites should I respond? Should it be the top 100 pieces of shite I’ve heard from this guy? Fifty? Twenty? Ten?
Oh, let’s do five. And if we need more, I’ll write about this again (blogito ergo sum).
In no particular order and starting with the most recent shite from this guy to come to my attention:
1) “You’re not real”
Sweetheart, I’m as “real” within the confines of the order to which I belong as you are within yours. I could question your “realness” and it would have as much validity. Not that it would be especially Masonic of me to tell your friends – strangers to me – that you aren’t “real” but I could and with arguably a hell of a lot more proof than you have.
Any Freemason who challenges the “realness” of another Freemason should check his – or her – own. How “real” is the Freemason who would be that rude, that unkind, that intolerant? The Freemason who questions the Masonic “regularity” of another Freemason points up their own irregularity. Let them who are without sin cast the first stones.
Further, when you do this you speak for your order and you have no business doing that. The authority of ANY Masonic order begins and ends at its own boundaries and goes no further, including making any great pronouncements about the realness/regularity/whatever of any Freemason beyond its boundaries.
So you and your order – assuming your order even knows what actionable slanders you’re up to – can say/think/feel/invent/talk all the trash you want and it will be relevant not at all.
And it is rude. Rude is something Freemasons should strive not to be. Seriously, you need ME to tell you that?
2) “You’re playing at Masonry”
So are you.
No Freemason is perfect, none of us has it down pat. If we were, or did, we wouldn’t need to be Freemasons.
What you seem not to have learned in the Blue Lodge is that you’re on a journey toward a perfection you will never reach but for which you must ever strive until you lay down your tools and answer the summons to the Grand Lodge Eternal. Work diligently upon your own ashlar knowing it will never be perfect but you must do it.
If you didn’t learn that until now, well, then now you have another tool to play with. Knock yourself out.
3) “I don’t want women in my Lodge”
I don’t want women in your lodge either.
My experience with the likes of you is that this statement is what’s actually bugging you. I don’t think you really care how “real” I am, how Masonically “regular” I am, or how much I’m “playing” at Masonry. What really upsets you is the idea that if you acknowledge there are women Freemasons and that there are Masonic orders that accept women as members, that your lodge will have to integrate.
I don’t know why you think that but you do.
The truth is that there is choice in Freemasonry, that the Craft is triune in nature: there are lodges for men only, lodges for women only, and lodges for men and women. It is a system we know can work largely because it does.
So if your lodge doesn’t want to admit women, there’s no reason why it should; and I would fight to the death for the right of your lodge to remain gender-based.
However, I also expect you to show the same respect for those lodges that choose to do otherwise and, thus, allow choice in Freemasonry to continue. That there are lodges elsewhere that will accept women is why your lodge can remain gender-based (the lawyers out there will know what I’m talking about).
Which means Co-Freemasonry is doing you a service. Imagine that. You’re welcome.
4) “How can men and women sit in lodge together without thinking about sex?”
Yeah, wow, this isn’t creepy at all 0.0
Seriously, this is a problem for you? Grocery stores, universities, churches, school plays, board meetings, polling places, baseball games, and other such venues must be pure hell for you. This earth is peopled by billions of men and women who mix all the time and get things done without thinking about sex all the live-long day. Pity you can’t but, well, that’s your cross to bear.
That this is a problem for you points up why there is a great need for choice in Freemasonry. If you can’t sit in a room with the opposite sex and keep your mind on the labors at hand, then you should remain in your gender-based lodge because, respectfully, you would make a poor Co-Mason.
5) “Having a woman in my lodge would violate my Obligation?”
Then don’t have women in your lodge.
That said, Freemasonry is much bigger than your lodge and your Obligation. Not all Freemasons take the same Obligation and they are in no way required to live up to yours, no more than you are required to live up to theirs. It’s very personal. You keep your Obligation, and I’ll keep mine; everything will be just fine.
And those are five shites that I hear from this guy.
I won’t offer an apology to Malecraft Masons who don’t act like this guy. That’s commendable, but I also have seen too many of you remain silent to these slanders. UnMasonic behavior by omission remains unMasonic, and, on your part of the tree at least, it’s actionable. Don’t tell me what you don’t do. Go do what is right, even when it’s easier to do wrong. Or be silent.
And for all Malecraft Masons who recognize themselves in this guy . . . you’re Freemasons, for crying out loud! You shouldn’t need a cranky old Co-Masonic Past Master like me to tell you any of the above. Your mentor, your lodge, your grand lodge – YOUR PARENTS – should have taught you better.