Women and Freemasonry – We have met the enemy and it is us.

The title, in part, comes from the comments about an article that ran in the USA Today – online edition, titled Masons, other service groups fight membership declines.

The article is the usual grouping of why the decline is happening, what groups are doing about it, and what the results are in the realities of the 21st century. The article included a quote from Richard Fletcher, the executive secretary of the Masonic Service Association of North America (MSANA) who said “There are fewer Masons today — by nearly a million — than there were in 1941 as the country came out of the Great Depression.” – something illustrated in a piece published in 2007 and again in 2010 titled So what? The Dynamic of Masonic Membership?.

Similar positions were repeated throughout the piece by the Rotary, Elks, but not the Lions.

Amos McCallum, of the Benevolent & Protective Order of Elks, says that they are presently at 900,000 members, down from 1.6 million in 1980 (an almost half million member drop). And Elizabeth Minelli, a Rotary International spokeswoman, says that Rotary is down 42,000 since 1995 in the USA to 360,790 today.

The only silver lining in the story was the success of the Lions Club International who are seeing a rising trend, up by 20,000 new members as of 2010 following decades of decline, claiming more than a million worldwide. the reason for the success of the Lions Club? I’ll quote Lions Club spokesman Dane La Joye from the article:

Reaching out to women has been key, La Joye says. “Women are the fastest-growing segment of our membership today,”.

While, right below it quotes Fletcher as saying “Women are not allowed to join [Freemasonry], and the policy is not up for debate.”

Far be it any one Mason to say that the institution should at least self evaluate itself, but to NOT look at the growing trend of Feminine dominance in the marketplace as a potential source of new association, then it is truly mis-reading the heartbeat of society and perhaps then should relinquish the claim as being the builder of modern society.

Some statistics about Marketing to Women, from She-conomy.com

Senior women age 50 and older control net worth of $19 trillion and own more than three-fourths of the nation’s financial wealth.

Over the next decade, women will control two thirds of consumer wealth in the United States and be the beneficiaries of the largest transference of wealth in our country’s history. Estimates range from $12 to $40 trillion.

Wealthy boomer women are the marquee players in our country’s culture and commerce. They are educated, have a high income, and make 95 percent of the purchase decisions for their households.

Women account for 85% of all consumer purchases including everything from autos to health care.

  • 76% want to be part of a special or select panel
  • 70% of new businesses are started by women
  • 79% would try your product or service
  • 80% would solidify their brand loyalty
  • 51% would give a company a second chance if a product or service missed the mark the first time

Women make more than 80% of all consumer purchasing decisions.

Even in a the male dominated world of professional sports women are:

  • 47.2 % of major league soccer fans
  • 46.5% of MLB fans
  • 43.2% of NFL fans
  • 40.8% of fans at NHL games
  • 37% of NBA fans
  • Purchase 46% of official NFL merchandise
  • Spent 80% of all sport apparel dollars and controlled 60% of all money spent on men’s clothing
  • Women comprise about one-third (34%) of the adult audience for ESPN sport event programs

With lots more data about modern women as consumers, that last bullet is a strong point – given that joining an organization that necessitates annual dues would fall into a consumer purchasing decision, if more men aren’t joining the ranks its probably because 80% of their wives are unwilling to allow men to commit to just such an expenditure.

So, do you change the tide of social evolution, or change your marketing?

If Masonry were operating as a Corporate business, as a shareholder, it would be safe to say that its missing the single largest opportunity to grow the business – opening it up to women, and as a share holding stake holder, does that make good business sense?

Posted in Masonic Traveler.

A devoted student of the Western Mystery Traditions, Greg is a firm believer in the Masonic connections to the Hermetic traditions of antiquity, its evolution through the ages and into its present configuration as the antecedent to all contemporary esoteric and occult traditions. He is a self-called searcher for that which was lost, a Hermetic Hermit and a believer in “that which is above is so too below.” Read more about Greg Stewart.


  1. After reflecting and meditating on the lessons of the Blue Lodge, I cannot think of anything—absolutely anything—in the teachings that would be lessened, cheapened, or altered by admitting women into the fraternity.

    We would lose the “fraternity” element, one small line from the obligation of one degree, and the supposedly holy, sacrosanct bonds that unite men to other men based on the virtue of shared chromosomes.

    Okay, so I’m being flip. After all, the mystic tie IS the secret of the craft. And asserting that men should be able to bond with other men is an important assertion. Members of the craft know that those bonds can be deeply nourishing and valuable.

    But if the Craft is going to assert that, we need to understand that we are asserting an outdated value that is absolutely indistinguishable from hanging a “No Girls Allowed” on a treehouse. That’s nothing we can control: that’s a decision that society has made for us.

    Also, more women than men are pursuing undergraduate education, and they perform better there, by an astounding margin. We can no longer leave women at the foot of the stairs when we ascend the seven steps.

  2. So glad you are emphasizing the last part of the article, which I caught on to and which is the key to reversing the decline. (“No Girls allowed”, ha ha. That hits the nail on the head.)

  3. Seems to me the commentator on this USA Today article for FMI, suggest we should as a Fraternity chase the money. If it were all about money and membership numbers, then I would agree. It’s not, so I don’t.

    In reality womens groups are more exclusionary then men’s groups these days.

    Of course I do not claim that admitting women would cheapen , etc Freemasonry just because they are women. It’s the sole fact that it’s a Fraternity. I am far from sexist but what is it so onerous to have a men only club/group/organization? Have we become so overly PC that even private groups cannot meet without the opposite sex or forced to admit individuals that we have to meet some law or quota? Freemasonry is a choice and should remain so.

    The reason the numbers look bad is that Freemasonry expanded way beyond it’s means in an overinflated member hip number, much like the recent housing bubble. New Lodges formed, buildings built and bought. When the numbers began retuning to normal Lodges should have closed or merged as soon as numbers dropped to a specific threshold. But nobody wanted to admit that, so we have Lodges with fewer numbers and larger bills and they cannot maintain, try as they might.

    So other then what the author alludes to that it’s all about the money. What is to gain by admitting women? Honestly I cannot see any benefit that would compel this change.
    Lastly if we did admit women, it would no longer be Freemasonry.

    Sorry just my opinion.

  4. Bill, thank you for the comment. Reading what you said, one could start to interpret it as Masonry is above the law. To my knowledge, there is no legal mandate on private institutions, so I don’t think there are any concerns there, but given your premise, if the fraternity experienced an over inflation near 60 years ago, how has it followed the opposite trend when the population from which to pull from has continued to grow? As for benefits, the economics are the same as with any business, more revenue in means more growth. It means the continued financing of homes, the expansion of scholarship dollars, even from a third party position, more hospital funding for endeavors like the Shrine and Scottish Rite. In the story, the Lions noted a 20,000 member gain in one year following decades of decline. Lastly, if no benefit can be found with inclusion, what are the benefits of exclusion? Just some areas for thought.

  5. Freemasonry as I understand it is for men. It is designed to create a forum where men can teach men how to be better men. It exists for the transmission of the highest masculine virtues from older men to younger men. Freemasonry is not gender-neutral. It is the modern version of the ancient male initiation rituals ubiquitous to every ancient society. If someone cannot distinguish between Freemasonry’s single-sex requirement and the by-laws of the He-Man Woman Hater’s Club from “The Little Rascals”, that is not the fault of our ancient Royal Art and Science.

    The structure of Freemasonry is a work of profound genius and the work of centuries of brilliant men. If Feminine Freemasons and Co-Freemasons want to co-opt it (and why wouldn’t they?) there is nothing stopping them from doing so, but the result is not regular Freemasonry and never will be. Do you want mixed gender Freemasonry? It already exists. The option to demit from regular Masonry in order to join a co-Freemasonic lodge is available to you, and if you feel it is not, you can always charter and initiate one. You knocked on the West Gate of your own free will and accord. You took your obligations freely. Whenever you decide that they no longer suit you, you are free to leave. But it is not in your prerogative to turn Freemasonry into something it is not just so that you can win the approval of women.

    When you are in a room consisting entirely of men, and a woman walks into the room, the mood changes. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but there is a qualitative difference between the company of men and mixed company. Freemasonry is what it is because it takes uses male consciousness and male energy to best advantage.

    Using the analogy of a corporation, and implying that Freemasonry is a product, is contemptible. We are not a business and never have been. If we operate at a financial loss, then so be it. Our spiritual register remains in the black. Our mission is more vital to humanity than the mere acquisition of material profit, and to suggest otherwise is to demean this great Fraternity. We are an exclusive organization by definition. We exclude. We require unanimous ballot before we will consider a candidate for our mysteries. We do not admit an atheist, a libertine, madman or fool. No corporation throws black cubes. We do.

    With all due respect to the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, Freemasonry is not Elkdom, even though our circles overlap. Have you been to a co-ed Elks Lodge? What is the gender ratio? If opening up Elkdom to women was such a good idea, then why are there so few female Elks?

    If malecraft Freemasonry is extinguished in the USA, a simulacrum will come along to replace it because malecraft Freemasonry is intrinsic to the Art. With all due respect to the Feminine Masons and co-Masons out there, when you reject male-only Freemasonry, you reject one of the Landmarks. Freemasonry notwithstanding still survives.

  6. If for anything else, I like the degree of passion this discussion sparks.

    The article originated with the USA Today and included the data on the Lions and their turn with allowing women, which was merely the springboard for the discussion.

    But, by the same reasoning, alcohol should never be allowed in a lodge function, because it crosses the grain of Temperance even when moderation is the call of duty. Its obvious by its very conduit, the fraternity has been, is, and shall be feminine free, but in the era of diminished membership and new “secret denouncing” open doors, what is the reality?

    As for members, the vote comes with the feet. If an individual seeks the Co-Masonic lodge, they will find it, and the little you hear of their progress gives an instant barometer of the reality – few are darkening their door such as to ring a bell of awareness.

    The points I see omitted in the dialog is the increasing weight being held by women in US society for buying and spending practice. If they hold the purse strings, how do you market to them so as to loosen the apron strings so men can make the commitment?

    And lets not fool ourselves, everything has a financial bottom line. Otherwise, lodges would have no dues and their parent bodies no per-capita tax. The lights,heat, and upkeep needs to come from somewhere. What are the economic realities?

  7. One of the biggest problems is that too many Masons don’t even realize what Masonry is and isn’t.

    Masonry is not a charity. We perform acts of charity but, it’s not our reason for being. We need the huge membership to keep up all of our charitable institutions and our large buildings. If we succumb to belief that we have to increase membership to keep these things running, then the tail is wagging the dog and our institution is no longer Masonry.

    If we change our requirements for membership and take in women, then every Mason will have to break an obligation that we took.

    We do need to get busy making Masons, not just members. Try it, it works.

  8. My thoughts are belive it or not there are more females than men, we have over the years lost a lot of men in every area that we live in our life no matter what race you are all men need mentors because we listen to one another we learn from our mistakes from a man, see, every young man may become a mentor for some young man i myself is now mentoring a five old one of my sons but there just my thoughts. Moving Forward.


  9. As a new Freemason, I find it alarming and kind of sad that the fraternity I have joined and love is so desperate for members that it would consider changing it’s very identity. One day conferrals (not spelled correct, I’m sure) too make more members without the work and time, and now the discussion of women? Too grow something by destory what it is, is not progress.

  10. Stephen, this is far from a discussion on changing the institution. Rather a look at a changing landscape within which to operate. Far from anything to lose any sleep over as the change is outside the parameters of any meaningful action.

  11. Greg, the very important part getting left out in the Lions/Masons comparison is that the Lions are a business networking group, with no initiatic trappings or claims of esoteric symbolism. Lions do not pledge to help, aid and assist each other. And Lions specifically cite themselves as a community service organization that is project oriented. And while they are open to men and women, and have been around since 1917, they have just under 1.3 million members worldwide. We still beat them in members, even if we disqualify half of the population.

    In France where women have been allowed to join Freemasonry for more than 200 years, women only make up 17% of the Masons there. Female and co-Masonic lodges have existed for over a century in England, and their numbers are miniscule. It tells me that there is not some vast, untapped wealth of women just itching to knock on the doors of our lodges.

    If you want to compare gender-specific groups, try comparing the explosive growth of the Red Hat Society to Masonry (0 to 70,000 in 10 years). Or scarier, the Eastern Star ought to be comparing those numbers and getting spooked out of their wits, since the Red Hatters are mostly drawing from the 50+ pool.

  12. As a woman and a mason, I must say that the article missed the heart of the issue, which is the recognition that women can be masons. I don’t want to be part of an all male lodge, nor do I want to force it to accept me. But I would like to be recognized for what I am. It would not change anything in Free Masonry, besides the intevisitations or common events. It would simply allow social interaction. Men could still have their fraternity. But women could also strengthen it. I call the refusal to even think that women can pursue knowledge “the ostrich syndrome”. You can ignore us, but that does not mean we don’t exist. Call us any names you want (irregular, clandestine, etc.), we are here to stay….

  13. As usual Chris says what I would have had I been able to articulate it. Thanks Chris for saying what was in my head, again…

  14. Us Elks have had a judge drop in membership!
    Most out fraternal order degree’s were voted out
    BPOE Lodge Aprons were thrown out using the hoodwink
    was banned for in 1952. The ritual has changed so many times.
    This years Elks Grand Lodge their going to raise vote
    To throw out more of the Last of the ritual we’ve got now.
    To shorten it they. What a crock of you know what.
    We Elks have very little left of fraternal world if and at all.
    1995 came the big blow Grand Lodge voted to allow females in to our
    Order so we wouldn’t get sued by a woman who turned in a application
    And was rejected so she wanted to take the Elks to the Supreme Court.
    We bowed down and gave it away!!! Now Elks aren’t as fun and every lodge
    Well not every lodge but most Elks lodges are down in the dumps fincially can’t make
    any money. Most of all the Gothic Palace Lodges are gone and destroyed.
    And the Last thing is Grand Lodge felt it would Double our membership numbers?
    It didn’t happen and now were losing 2 to 3 % nationally of membership.
    Allowing females in didn’t work in that regard at all.
    We still have about 865,000 members I would guess.
    Now days wemon are lodge officers and ERs and no body cares to do much but sept the wemon.
    So I don’t know what to say other than.
    Look out Masonary here I come.I will still be an Elk as long as it can survive.
    Oh well it’s very sad the first American Fraternal Order not doing
    Horrible but it’s got a chest cold and it could turn in to deadly
    Pnemonphia. So watch and listen to our Elks Lodge little Brother frat
    Mason’s don’t let this crap happen to you.
    Masons are to awesome to let this bad luck hit you where it hurts!!!!!!!!

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