Sisters in Brotherhood: Women’s Role in Freemasonry

Introduction to Women and Freemasonry

In the world of Freemasonry, the presence of women has often been overlooked or dismissed. However, women have been involved in Freemasonry for centuries, and there are two female-only Grand Lodges in England dedicated to the practice: The Order of Women Freemasons and HFAF – Freemasonry for Women.

This article will delve into the history of women in Freemasonry, the structure and purpose of these female-only Grand Lodges, and the impact and contributions of women Freemasons in society.

Women Freemasons’ History

The history of women in Freemasonry is as rich and varied as that of their male counterparts. Although many believe that women were not allowed to join the fraternity due to its secretive nature, evidence suggests that women have been involved in the craft since the 18th century. Early records show that women participated in Masonic rituals, either as members of mixed-gender lodges or in all-female organizations.

One of the earliest documented cases of a woman being initiated into Freemasonry took place in France in 1730. Maria Deraismes, a prominent feminist and writer, was initiated into a mixed-gender lodge in Paris in 1882. She went on to establish the first all-female lodge, La Respectable Loge, Le Droit Humain, Maçonnerie Mixte, in 1893. This lodge became the foundation for the international co-Masonic order, Le Droit Humain, which still exists today.

In the United States, women Freemasons have been active since the late 19th century. The Eastern Star, a Masonic-affiliated organization for women, was established in 1850. While not a traditional Masonic lodge, the Eastern Star provided a space for women to participate in Masonic rituals and engage with the teachings of the craft.

The Order of Women Freemasons

The Order of Women Freemasons is the oldest and largest Masonic organization for women in the United Kingdom. Founded in 1908 as the Grand Lodge of the Honourable Order of Ancient Masonry, it adopted the title ‘The Order of Women Freemasons’ in 1958. The organization originally included men and women, but by 1935, it became an exclusively female organization.

Members of the Order of Women Freemasons must be 21 years or older, be of good character, and believe in a Supreme Being. The Order has approximately 4,000 members in over 300 Craft Lodges across the UK and overseas. These lodges meet a minimum of four times per year, with members encouraged to join further and higher degrees.

The Order of Women Freemasons follows the same structure and principles as regular male Freemasonry. The organization is governed by a Grand Master and her secretariat, who carry out their duties on a voluntary basis. The Order’s headquarters are located in Notting Hill Gate, London.

The purpose of the Order of Women Freemasons is to provide a space for women to engage in Masonic rituals and teachings, promote personal growth and development, and support charitable causes. The Order is actively involved in promoting the Universities Scheme, an initiative to introduce Freemasonry to university students, and has worked alongside their male counterparts at Freshers’ Fairs throughout England and Wales.

OWF website:

HFAF – Freemasonry for Women

Another female-only Grand Lodge in England is HFAF – Freemasonry for Women. This organization also follows the same ceremonies and regalia as male Freemasons and maintains a close working relationship with the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE). Members of both the Order of Women Freemasons and HFAF – Freemasonry for Women have participated in Open House London at Freemasons’ Hall to showcase female Freemasonry.

HFAF website:


Engagement with Community and Charity Projects

Both female-only Grand Lodges are deeply involved in community and charity projects. They often work alongside male Freemasons to support various initiatives, such as fundraising for local charities, providing educational opportunities, and promoting social and moral values. These endeavors demonstrate the commitment of women Freemasons to making a positive impact on society, just as their male counterparts have done for centuries.

The Impact of Women in Freemasonry

The presence and contributions of women in Freemasonry have often gone unnoticed or underappreciated. However, with the establishment of female-only Grand Lodges and their active involvement in community and charity projects, women Freemasons have proven that they are an essential part of the Masonic fraternity.

Women’s participation in Freemasonry has also helped break down gender stereotypes and promote gender equality within the organization.

By allowing women to join Masonic lodges and participate in the same rituals as men, Freemasonry has become a more inclusive and diverse institution. In turn, this diversity has enriched the Masonic experience for all members, fostering a greater understanding and appreciation for the craft.


In conclusion, the history and impact of women in Freemasonry are both significant and often overlooked.

Through the establishment of female-only Grand Lodges and their active involvement in community and charity projects, women have demonstrated their commitment to the craft and their ability to contribute positively to society.

By embracing gender equality and diversity, Freemasonry has become a more robust and enriching institution for all members.

As we continue to explore and analyze the role of women in Freemasonry, it is essential to recognize their contributions and the valuable perspectives they bring to this centuries-old fraternity.

Freemasonry and Women’s Rights

Philippa Lee

A four part introductory series exploring the history of mixed, Co-masonry and female Freemasonry, and how the fraternity and its members helped progress the emancipation and rights of women. This includes; Lodges of Adoption, Co-Masonry and Women’s Orders, Suffragettes, and the Women Freemasons who helped change the the full series …

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