The first of these images come from an early period, and in fact depict a woman who was clearly an operative Freemason. (By the way folks, Freemason did not begin as a term to describe what we now call "speculative"
masonry, a distinction cooked up along with the whimsy that Freemasonry began in London, as there were no small number of operative masons capable of and engaged in speculative thought before the bar hoppers of London formed a Grand Lodge. Rather, it refers to masons who worked in Freestone. Freestone is a stone used in masonry for molding, tracery and other work with a chisel. Oolitic stones are used, although soft sandstones may also be used; in some locations a naturally hardened chalk called clunch is employed for internal lining and for carving.
As is to be expected, a fair bit of nonsense has been written about her by Masons concerned with “limiting the damage,” however, her portrait, wearing masonic garb as a mature woman makes it clear that she continued to be active as a mason throughout her life. The lodge her father was the leader of, doubtlessly received its patent from Scotland rather than London, as some have suggested.
|Mixed Masonic Lodge in Ghana in the 1930s|
Also included are the photograph of a most talented woman Freemason whom, until I went in search of photographs for this blog entry, I had forgotten about, although I have no idea why; the multi-talented and beautiful Josephine Baker. Lastly, I would be remiss if I neglected to post a photograph of the woman who may well be the most famous woman Freemason in the English speaking world today, the talented author and Freemason, Karen Kidd. Karen is the author of a number of books on women and Freemasonry that if you haven't read, you need to. Go look them up.
Some titles on this subject, by Karen Kidd, and by other authors include:
Women's Agency and Rituals in Mixed and Female Masonic Orders edited by by Alexandra Heidle and Jan A. M. Snoek.
Initiating Women in Freemasonry by Jan A. M. Snoek
Women in Freemasonry by Louis Goaziou.
Haunted Chambers: the Lives of Early Women Freemasons by Karen Kidd
On Holy Ground: A History of The Honorable Order of American Co-Masonry by Karen Kidd
Lastly, one title which might surprise some, demonstrates that no less than Albert Pike was seriously considering the admission of women as Freemasons in the United States. He wrote his own adaptation of the Rite of Adoption with the intention of instituting it in the US. His book, which is available as a reproduction from Kessinger, is entitled Secret Masonic Rituals For Women: The Masonry Of Adoption.