A Short(er) History of Early Women Freemasons

womenfreemasons_featBy Karen Kidd
Author of  “Haunted Chambers: the Lives of Early Women Freemasons”

Controversial American author Robert Temple observed “Technology is forbidden when it is not allowed to exist.”

“It is easy to forbid technology to exist in the past because all you have to do is to deny it. Enforcing the ban then becomes a simple matter of remaining deaf, dumb and blind. And most of us have no trouble in doing that when necessary. . . I call it consensus blindness. People agree not to see what they are convinced cannot exist.”

Temple made these comments in his paper “Forbidden Technology”, which is about optical technology, long denied by “experts”, that none-the-less existed for millennia.

“Consensus blindness” long has been the unwritten/unspoken rule among Malecraft Masons, likewise accepted by many non Masons including women, about the existence of early women Freemasons. However, just as there are lenses in Ancient Egyptian archaeological finds dating to the 4th and 5th dynasties at Abydos, so also have women Masons existed throughout all of the modern Freemasonic period[1].

Denying their existence, for centuries, was the expected norm and any Masonic historian who wrote about them had to adopt a sort of double-speak. For instance, 20th Century Masonic scholar Carl Claudy, when he wrote about women Freemasons in his “Masonic Harvest”, spent the first page of that chapter stating that women could not be Freemasons; then ten pages describing – with continual double-speak  –  the lives of those women Freemasons.

Claudy, whatever his personal opinions, had no choice but to write about early Women Freemasons in this way. Had he attempted to be more straight-forward, it likely would never have been published. In this way, Claudy and other Masonic writers kept from complete obscurity the lives of these women Freemasons.

Their existence is a fact, despite determined effort to ignore, marginalize and deny it. That effort, however, ongoing for centuries, has done its worst. The very vast majority of early women Freemasons are unknown to us. Finding them can take as much effort as it did to obscure them.

They include:

  • Gunnilda the Mason: a female operative mason mentioned by name as living in  Norwich in the Calendar of Close Rolls for the year 1256[2].
  • Elizabeth St. Leger Aldworth: initiated into her father’s lodge in County Cork in Ireland before the founding of the modern Freemasonry Grand Lodges.
  • Hannah Mather Crocker: Grand Mistress of the Femalecraft St. Ann’s Lodge in Boston during the 1770s.
  • Henriette Heiniken: better known as “Madame de Xaintrailles”, a hero of the Napoleonic wars initiated into an otherwise Malecraft Lodge in Paris the early 19th Century.
  • Mary Ann Belding Sproul: an early New Brunswick settler initiated into her husband’s Lodge in the early 19th Century.
  • Catherine Sweet Babington: a teen-ager when she snuck into her uncles’ lodge in East Kentucky, initiated into that Lodge at the height of the anti-Masonic era spawned by the disappearance of William Morgan.
  • Salome Anderson: late 19th Century wealthy matron of Oakland, CA, outed as a Freemason by a respected Masonic publication six years before her death in 1898.

And many more. Late 19th Century Masonic history W. Fred Vernon, writing when Malecraft Masons were a bit more laid back about the subject, commented, “I have no doubt other ancient Lodges have their lady members just as ancient buildings have their haunted chambers.”[3]

I’ve heard my book is a threat to all Freemasonry, Malecraft Masonry in particular. This is no more true than admitting to the existence of their contemporary male brethren is a threat to any part of Freemasonry. All our Brethren who have passed to the Grand Lodge above, be they male or female, are to be remembered and emulated.

While none of these women were Co-Masons, they did pave the way for that part of Freemasonry. And, today, women can become Freemasons without eavesdropping, sneaking into lodges or hiding in furniture.

For more than a century, Freemasonry has operated in three parts. There is Malecraft Masonry, there is Femalecraft Masonry and there is Co- or Mixed Masonry. And we know this system can work, largely before it does.

And so it will continue with the past duly recalled. I wrote about these women to follow in the tradition of Claudy and other Masonic historians who kept their stories alive. I wrote the truth that this generation, and the next, may find worthy of remembrance.

Listen to the Masonic Central Podcast with Br. Kidd.

[1] Temple’s paper was published in the Summer 2001 edition (Issue 17) of Freemasonry Today and is available online here: http://www.freemasonrytoday.com/17/p11.php

[2] See “Calendar of Close Rolls 1254-1256”, page 366

[3] See “Ars Quatour Coronatorum, Vol. V (1892)“.

Haunted Chambers, the lives of early women Freemasons.

Haunted Chambers by Karen Kidd

Haunted Chambers by Karen Kidd

Join Masonic Central this Sunday, June 28th at 6pm PDT / 9pm EDT as we meet and talk to Br. Karen Kidd, the author of the new book Haunted Chambers: The Lives of Early Women Freemasons.

The topic of the program is a haughtily debated one, and certain not to be decided in the time we spend in the program.  But we will discuss the book, some of the notable history of Feminine Freemasonry, and perhaps explore what that means today.

Missed the live program? Listen Now!

From the site:

These women aren’t supposed to have existed.

But they did.

Haunted Chambers“, for the first time ever, presents not only the most complete list of early women Freemasons but also as much detail about their lives as can still be found. Here are their stories, long suppressed, ignored and marginalized. They include medieval women stone cutters; so-called “adoptive” women Freemasons; an aristocrat; a countess; an early New Brunswick settler; a war hero; a writer of women’s rights; an immigrant Irish girl; the famed sculptress of Abraham Lincoln’s statue in the US Capitol Rotunda and many whose names are now lost.

Some will find this book a challenge. Some would rather it never had been written, let alone published. “Haunted Chambers” is highly recommended to anyone who wants the actual history of these early women Freemasons and aren’t afraid to read it.

This is a special hour and a half long program on Masonic Central on Sunday June 28th starting at 6pm PDT/9pm EDT to explore the dark and mysterious Haunted Halls of history and its impact on Freemasonry today.   In the last half hour we will open a segment for your questions and comments to the author live on the air.  To ask your questions call: (347) 677-0936 during the program.

You can listen to the program live from our home at Blog Talk Radio here and join in with our live program chat, or from our player widget on our website at Freemasoninformation.com


>>Download the Program

Toxic to Democracy

Toxic to Democracy
Toxic to Democracy

I happened onto this story on my way home from the grocery store tonight.  It was on the NPR program Fresh Air and was an interview with Chip Berlet who is the senior analyst at Political Research Associates, at PublicEye.org.

The story was on a paper just released by PRA and Berlet on the damage wrought by conspiracy theories, demonizing rhetoric, and scapegoating, especially prominent in today’s media.  The topic is not a new one as both the left and the right have blasted one another for years, but in the interview, Berlet went into some considerable depth in talking about the extent of present day conspiracy theories and their radicalization especially as it pertains to the arena of white supremacy and neo nazi movements here in the US.

At first the program seemed to be just another conspiracy talk, but it soon delved into how the white supremacy movements (including the recent murder at the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC) are beginning to take on an ultra radical stance that has, so far this year, been the root of 9 murders.  In the radical development of the conspiracy theories at their root is a black/Jewish cabal that embraces anti-semitism and racism hearkening to the slave south being taken over by the Rothschild banking family.  Going even deeper, in James von Brunn’s writings, he indited the Illuminati and Freemasonry as being manipulated by the “crafty Jews” to take control of America.

It sounds like a bad conspiracy film, but in the interview, Berlet details how these theories have developed and what their evolution has been.  Additionally, he details the Illuminati and Freemasonry for the host, portraying the fraternity into a very favorable light even acknowledging the fraternities link to the enlightenment and natural philosophy.

Interestingly, Berlet talks about the ideas of collectivism and socialism and their challenges when they radicalize and start to shape policy (you’ll remember the series from the Banks of the Euphrates a short time back).  This is a good example of this social collectivism gone awry in Nazi Germany into totalitarian.

I highly recommend you give the program a listen.  Also, if you have some room in your reading schedule, give the Toxic to Democracy paper a read.  I just printed out a copy and at quick glance it looks like a very good read.

I recommend listening to the NPR interview.
And i recommend reading the paper Toxic to Democracy.

freemasonry, things remembered, next generation, leaving something behind

What Will Be Your Legacy?

freemasonry, things remembered, next generation, leaving something behindThis article comes from RWB Dean Behrens, Senior Grand Warden for the Grand Lodge of South Dakota. The article originally appeared in the Grand Lodge of South Dakota’s publication The Masonic Messenger. You can visit the Grand Lodge’s website here.

What will be your legacy?

Is it too soon, or too late, for any one of us to ask ourselves that question? Just what is a legacy anyway?

I found this definition of legacy online at www.thefreedictionary.com . Something handed down from an ancestor or a predecessor or from the past. That seems fairly straight forward. The something in this definition could be anything. I like to think that it can definitely apply to your Masonic legacy.

When you became a Mason your Masonic predecessors left a Masonic legacy for you. It included the building you were raised in, perhaps some money in the treasury, a set of principles, beliefs, values, some rules and a bunch of other stuff that only you know about. The intangible parts of this legacy are unique to each new Mason. That is because Masonry will mean something different to each individual Mason. Some have said that this is the only true secret about Masonry. Your Masonry is your secret.

The physical assets you leave as part of your legacy are, of course, important for those Masons you will leave behind. These can ensure that your Brothers will have the ability to meet comfortably and continue to promote Masonry in your community so that they and their community can be the better because of Masonry and its principles. So keep those in mind.

The intangible are perhaps even more important. My experience is that the most valuable person in an organization is the one that is hardly missed when he/she is away for a period of time. They have organized things so well, trained other so well and set such an example that everything works smoothly even when they are not there. Those that do the opposite generally create chaos when they are gone even for a very short time. They have created job security and proved to others how great and invaluable they are to the organization, or so they often think. Be mindful that it can be amazing what can be done if no one cares who gets the credit.

Please keep your legacy in mind in everything you do as a Mason. Not for you, but for those you will leave behind, both in Masonry and in your community.

What will be your legacy?

Dean Behrens
Senior Grand Warden

Are Illiterates Raising Illiterates?

booksby Br. John Nagy

If you’re old to Masonic Education you know that, for the most part, “average formal Grand Lodge backed” Masonic Education programs exist today as:

  1. Memorizing Degree Catechism
  2. Learning Ritual and floor work
  3. Reviewing the Digest of Law and taking exams based on it
  4. Reading Pamphlets
  5. Perusing Degree Handbooks
  6. Following Officer Manuals

If you’re more fortunate than most, you may even have some Brothers show up at lodge once in a while to provide some interesting tidbits on Masonic history. These are all important and form a stable foundation to continue the necessary support that Freemasonry requires to survive. What is missing though is the kind of education that many Masons are starving for and which Properly Raises them toward the level that Freemasonry was intended to have.

This is a bold statement and one that requires some explanation so let me ask the obvious question, “What are they starving for?” They starve for the truly important aspect of Masonic Education most missing today: how Masonry applies to their lives overall. Without a firm understanding of how Masonry manifests in our lives, what it means and how it helps us Build better lives, the true Masonic lessons are lost, leaving Masons unfulfilled and dissatisfied.

The sad part of this situation is that it is caused by self-sabotage. We Masons are held back because we have falsely labeled ourselves for years. What’s needed to move forward is an earnest effort to dismiss this notion that we are merely “Speculative Masons.” This is blatantly misleading.

Let me place something firmly before you to consider: All Masons who use Masonry to help themselves Build better lives are “Operative Masons;” Masons today do work in and on Stone; it’s not recognized as Stone though, and that is part of the problem. Most of us Masons don’t understand the symbols before us!

Every Working Tool mentioned in Masonic Ritual has Authentic Application in the real world. What is missing though is a foundational understanding as to the application of these tools in our lives today. We don’t see this because the very symbols that are shared within Ritual do not speak to us today as they did in years past. In this respect, Masons being Raised today are symbolically illiterate. They do not have a sufficient Symbolic Education to be Raised properly; which leads me back to the statement I wrote earlier, most Masons are not Properly Raised.

Let me run a few frank statements past you to consider further.

Freemasonry is Building Builders. Sound Building is based on the ability to properly Understand and Work with Symbols. The basis of Symbolic Education is stated within Masonic Ritual. The final Steps Masons must take to prepare themselves for being Properly Raised are alluded to in the FC lecture. The first three of the final Steps are in preparation for understanding and using Symbols as Words; the last four are in preparation for understanding and using Symbols as Numbers. These Seven Steps are important because without a firm understanding of Symbols, Freemasons metaphorically die of hunger in a grocery store jam-packed with food for lack of an ability to access that which is immediately before them.

These last seven Steps are Symbolic in Masonry and were once considered the Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences. They were initially used as preparation for serious study in Philosophy and Theology. Without their foundation, the training in Symbols, one could not properly deal with Symbols, also known in some circles as “the Word” or “the Logos.” Masons may go through the motions of being Raised, but until they are capable of raising their level of understanding above the actual words and numbers, they are Symbolically Illiterate, hence they’re unable to read what is before them.

In this respect, Masonry has failed as an organization. As truly successful as Masonry is in preserving our “food locker of symbols,” our Brothers starve and loose interest because they lack access keys to this locker. The saddening aspect of this is that few Brothers understand this; fewer still are willing to work toward changing this.

In general, we Masons as a whole look at increasing numbers, retention of members and ability to “repeat back without firm understanding” as key indicators of our success. They will never be indicators of success – ever!

The challenges we are faced with are based in educating our members in Symbolic Understanding and Use; our problems are based in our Educators not focusing on this; the troubles that are focused on today are a symptom of our not meeting the challenge before us; they are not the cause but we’ll have to live with them until we change our focus.

People support what they can “make sense of” and “use” in their lives. What’s more, when others see how well things are working for Masons, we will attract others in kind. Ironically, if we stick with the basics and educate our members in Symbolic understanding and application, we’ll attract far more members then we could ever imagine.

Building Hiram - Uncommon Catechism for Uncommon Masonic Education by John Nagy

Let’s make a unified effort to give our Brothers the keys to the Masonic locker. All that is required is taking seven simple Steps.

You can hear an interview with Br. Nagy on Masonic Central!

Dr. and Br. John Nagy is the author of the new book:

Building Hiram Uncommon Catechism for
Uncommon Masonic Education Vol. 1.

Harm Timmerman, Composer of The Temple of Humanity

templeThis Sunday, March 29th, we are jumping the pond again to welcome our special guest from the Netherlands composer and Producer Harm Timmerman from Free Stone Music, the creator of the Masonicly inspired CD “The Temple of Humanity“.

Missed the live show?  Listen to it Now!

The CD is self-described as The “Music of Freemasonry” and having listened to it several times already I would tend to agree. But this isn’t the usual high-pitched organ grind or the occulted “Magic Flute”  of past generations, no, this music reaches out and becomes part of the spirit of the tiled Masonic lodge room and carries the listener into the sublime meditative state that we each strive to inhabit when contemplating the degrees.

This is just a sampling of the stunning Music on this album.

Look for us this Sundays, March 29th, at 6PM PST/9PM EST.

Listen to the program live stream player widget on Freemason Information, or dial into the show to listen and interact with the hosts. Join our interactive show chat from our application site on talkshoe. To join the conversation live, dial the number 724-444-7444 and enter the show I.D. 19162, fifteen minutes prior to, or during the program.

And, check back soon as some of the details of the program may change preceding the on-air portion.

Masonic Central Podcast

Table Talk: All Things Freemasonry

Masonic Central podcast

This episode was recorded on August 10th, 2008. In it, Greg and Dean host an open forum for a round table discussion on all things Freemasonry. Our usual cadre of hosts will be on as well as our special callers but in this episode, we invite the Masonic community to participate by calling in and asking the hosts of the show questions about the fraternity and letting us know what they think about Freemasonry. Tim Bryce joins us on the show to talk about summer lodge closing, degrees from around the world, lodges doing specialized labors and the “hidden nooks in lodges” where the relics of the temple are stored.

We have a special appearance by the Millennial Freemason.

This was a really fun episode to listen back to relieve the comrade of the conversation. I think you’ll enjoy listening to it again, too.