Women in Eighteenth-Century English Freemasonry: the First English Adoption Lodges and their Rituals
Subject Areas: Religious Studies
Drawing on several so-far neglected documents available in the Burney Collection of the British Library as well as in the Library and Museum of Freemasons' Hall in London, this paper investigates the gender structures and roles represented in English masonic constitutions, pamphlets, letters, rituals as well as newspapers of the long eighteenth century. First, it examines the origin and the public perception of the exclusion of women from the fraternity in England and discuses how freemasons defended this 'landmark.' Secondly, it analyses how and why English freemasons invited ladies to participate in various masonic activities including balls, feasts and public masonic ceremonies. Thirdly, it highlights how some English women, following the advice of some liberal-minded 'brethren', managed to subvert this gender-exclusive principle by establishing all-female and / or adoption lodges in the second half of the century. So far scholarship has dated the emergence of such lodges to the twentieth century in England. Finally, the paper will compare the gender constructions of traditional male masonic rituals with the first English ceremonies of adoption lodges admitting both sexes.
Author: Róbert Péter
Newspapers and Periodicals.
Bingley’s Journal, 2–9 May 1772, Issue 101.
Bingley’s Weekly Journal, or the Universal Gazette, 18 August 1770, Issue 11.
Felix Farley’s Bristol Journal, 2 August 1788, Issue 2075.
General Evening Post, 19–22 May 1787, Issue 8345.
Grub Street Journal, 21 April 1737, Issue 382.
Lloyd’s Evening Post, 3–5 October 1792, Issue 5503.
London Chronicle or Universal Evening Post, 29 December 1764–1
January 1765, Issue 1253.
London Evening Post, 14–17 January 1738, Issue 1587.
London Evening Post, 22–24 December 1737, Issue 1577.
London Evening Post, 9–12 July 1757, Issue 4630.
Middlesex Journal, or Chronicle of Liberty, 20–23 July 1771, Issue 363.
Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser, 26 June 1783, Issue 4402.
Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser, 9 September 1777, Issue 2591.
Morning Post and Daily Advertiser 25 June 1785, Issue 3862.
Morning Star, 17 August 1789, Issue 160.
Public Advertiser, 20 May 1786, Issue 16223.
Read’s Weekly Journal, 25 January 1723/24 reprinted in The Early Masonic Catechisms, eds Douglas Knoop, G. P. Jones, D. Hamer. London: Manchester University Press, 1963, 226–28.
St. James’s Chronicle, or the British Evening Post, 10–12 July 1764, Issue 523.
Star, 27 December 1788, Issue 205.
The Freemasons’ Magazine, Vol. 6 (May 1796), 361.
The Plain Dealer, 14 September 1724, Issue 51.
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Letter of Thomas Dunckerley to St. Nicholas Lodge (10 May 1787). GBR 1991 HC 8/A/32. Library and Museum of Freemasonry, London.
M.C. An account of the Fair Intellectual-Club in Edinburgh: in a letter to a honourable member of an Athenian Society there. By a young lady, the secretary of the club. Edinburgh: printed by J. M’euan and Company, and to be sold at the said J. M’euan’s shop in Edinburgh, and T. Cox at the Amsterdam Coffee-House near the Royal Exchange in London, .
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