Item Details

The Reverend, The Bluestocking and Freemasons Behaving Badly: An Exploration and Close Reading of "A Series of Letters on Freemasonry" by "A Lady of Boston"

Issue: Vol 2 No. 1 (2011)

Journal: Journal for Research into Freemasonry and Fraternalism

Subject Areas: Religious Studies

DOI: 10.1558/jrff.v2i1.144


In Boston, 1810, the Reverend Dr. Thaddeus Harris solicited the aid of Mrs.
Hannah Crocker in answering the anti-masonic sentiments of the day,
especially those of women. The resulting exchange of letters was published
in the local newspaper, the Columbian Centinel. The letters provide a window
on anti-masonic sentiments; attitudes towards women; the question of the
purpose of societies, secret or otherwise and their place in the community;
and the integration of Christian morals, values and principles into the
daily life of New England at that time. Harris’ choice of Crocker initially
seems straightforward, based on her position as a Boston bluestocking,
but her letters are ambiguous in their endorsement of freemasonry, and
when read closely, bring into question Harris’ motivations for publishing
the exchange of letters. One of those motivations may have been to use the
public forum for a private rebuke to masons behaving badly in the public
arena. In contrast, Crocker’s motivation seems straightforward: her views
on the education of women and the exclusion of women from masonry are
clearly stated. She discussed her own foray into an institution ‘similar’ to
freemasonry. She presented herself as a highly intelligent and educated
woman, with an extensive knowledge of theology, religion and history, and
did so without appearing as anything other than properly womanly by the
definitions of the day. We thus have another interesting possible motive
for Harris’ publication of the letters: to allow Crocker this public forum for
her views. Crocker emerges as a special kind of feminist: one who is not
afraid to express her opinions, and is able to do so in a way appropriate to
the ideas of womanhood at the time, while harsher or more confrontational
statements would likely have been disregarded by the very people they
were meant to reach.

Author: Mary Copeland

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