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WOMEN AND FREEMASONRY
(two lectures in french)
La Franc-Maçonnerie Anglo-Saxonne et les Femmes -
by Andrée Buisine (book).
La Grande Loge Féminine de France, Autoportrait. Collectif animé par
Andrée Buisine. (book).
There are few
books published on women and Freemasonry and Dr. Buisine - a prominent lady mason - is to
be congratulated for respectively writing and editing these two works.
The former is a brave attempt to narrate and explain the evolution of masonic, near-
masonic and pseudo-masonic institutions among women in England and in the U.S.A., while
the latter - an aptly titled work - covers the first fifty years of what is currently the
largest masonic obedience for women, and led by women, in continental Europe.
Women's Freemasonry can be traced to two principal sources : on the one
hand the Adoptive lodges designed and overseen by 18th century French freemasons as an
imitation of the Craft, with rituals adapted to fit the sensibility of women (as men
perceived it to be) ; and on the other, mixed or Co-Masonry which originated in France at
the end of the 19th century.
In the first work Dr. Buisine presents a condensed version of her Ph.D.
thesis, which she presented in 1990 at the University of Dijon. It has all the advantages
of a thesis : rigorous research, ample documentation and références ; but also the
defects that must accompany such a drastic reduction of a much larger text : notably the
loss of notes and comments. Within these confines it serves its purpose well, drawing on
all the available documents issued by the organizations concerned (all too few and rarely
very recent), and painting as accurate a picture as possible.
She distinguishes clearly between those bodies that are « adoptive »
(e.g. T'he Eastern Star) and those that are autonomous and which
practise rites apparently similar to those in use within the Craft. The influence of the
Theosophical Society on Co-Masonry is clearly set out and one can see that the successes
and failures of Theosophy are paralleled by the rise and fall of « Le Droit
Humain » (The Human Right), as Co-Masonry chooses
to style itself. For those able to read French the great number of facts brought together
for the first time will come as a surprise : they are almost wholly unknown to most
But Dr. Buisine's heart and soul clearly lie within the Grande Loge
Feminine de France. Its history and its ethos are presented by its members and skilfully
woven together by the editor. One can only admire the dedication of the small number of
founders who built up the present body by devotion to duty, love of their Sisters, and
sheer hard work. Equally one must wish them well in their enterprise and trust that their
high standards will be maintained over the next fifty years.
in The Transactions - volume 108 - 1995