Embracing the principle of gender equality, the Grand Orient of the United States of America admits both men and women into Freemasonry. It is true that the 1723 Book of Constitutions of the Freemasons excluded the entrance of women, but this was within the social milieu and clubbing practices of London common in 1723. That having been said, the best of recent academic scholarship has shown that in a number of situations, and at a variety of places, women have historically constituted a presence in Freemasonry.
In the eighteenth century, women in Freemasonry in France were largely confined to a so-called “adoptive” Masonry—Les loges d’Adoption. The adoptive Lodges developed steadily throughout the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries. On October 21, 1945, as women and men returned from fighting in World War II, Anne-Marie Gentily, presiding over a meeting of assembled Lodges of Adoption in Paris, France, announced their reconstitution as l’Union Maçonnique Féminine. On September 22, 1952, l’Union Maçonnique Féminine became the Grande Loge Féminine de France. This is the oldest and largest all-female Masonic body in the world with its roots set deeply in the eighteenth century.
An additional important illustration, is that on January 14, 1882, Maria Deraismes, a journalist advocate of women’s and children’s rights, was initiated in the Lodge Les Libres Penseurs, in Le Pecq, France. Eleven years later, she, along with Georges Martin, and others, created the Grande Loge Symbolique Ecossaise de France, Le Droit Humain, the forerunner of the international Masonic body for men and women called Le Droit Humain.
In the 21st century, women are more and more enjoying the same rights and duties as men. They pursue successful professional careers, some of them are political figures, ministers in governments, or heads of state. Therefore, we believe that men and women are complementary, in Freemasonry as well as in everyday life, and that the inclusion of women can only be of benefit to all.
In the totality of the global community of Freemasonry, the Craft can no longer ignore half of the population in the world. The search for light can only be accomplished through harmony and diversity.
As the poet Aragon said: “Women are the future of Men.” Freemasonry is thriving in the countries that accept this plurality.
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