One hundred years ago a new Masonic organisation was formed in London. It was the first Grand Lodge founded in England to admit men and women as members on an equal basis. From its formation in 1717, the governing body of English freemasonry had restricted its membership to men.
By the end of the nineteenth century women were campaigning for full civic and legal rights and wanted to join Masonic lodges too. Women and Freemasonry: The Centenary exhibition at the Library and Museum of Freemasonry at Freemasons’ Hall in Covent Garden traces the history of their campaign. Women and Freemasonry: The Centenary runs from Wednesday 4 June to Friday 19 December 2008 (weekdays only) and is free of charge to all visitors.
Freemasons’ Hall has been the centre of English Freemasonry for 230 years. As well as being the meeting place for over 800 London lodges it is the headquarters of the United Grand Lodge of England, the oldest Grand Lodge in the world. Although its membership remains restricted to men, the United Grand Lodge of England acknowledges the two Grand Lodges for women, in some areas shares meeting places with them and from time to time meets with their leaders to discuss matters of mutual concern.
The exhibition will examine the development of freemasonry for women and the changing relationship with traditional freemasonry. It will look at the role played by the suffrage movement and theosophy in fostering women’s involvement.
Objects and documents on display for the first time will include documents and records relating to the early women’s lodges and examples of their regalia and badges. Amongst the important figures represented are Annie Besant and Francesca Arundale, leading theosophists and campaigners, the men who played their part- Dr George Martin and the Rev William Cobb – and the women who helped to foster the organisational development of freemasonry for women such as Marion Lindsey Halsey, herself the daughter-in-law of a senior freemason.
Exhibition dates: Wednesday 4th June – Friday 19th December 2008.
Exhibition free of charge all visitors
Opening hours: Monday to Friday, 11am to 5pm. Museum closed at weekends.
The Library and Museum of Freemasonry, Freemasons’ Hall, Great Queen Street, London, WC2B 5AZ