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(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 freemasons.

    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



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