Malcolm Davies tells the interesting story of an early ‘lodge of adoption’ in Den Haag (the Hague), the Netherlands.
Lodges of adoption rose in France in the early days of Freemasonry. They were lodges for the wives of Freemasons, somewhat similar in organisation and workings, but adapted. The lodges of adoption worked under a ‘regular lodge’ and was headed by a member of that lodge, hence, a man.
In Den Haag the situation seems to have been somewhat different. The author describes the lodge as “a mixed Scottish lodge.” That sounds as if in this case there were no diluted Masonic rituals for the ladies, but an actual mixed gender lodge. There are only records for half a year of activity in 1751. That is 5 years before the foundation of the Dutch Grand Orient of the Netherlands! There is an interesting suggestion about that in the article.
In spite of the short life, the lodge was very active. Ritual and song books were published and several members were initiated. The ancient discussion about women in Freemasonry seems to have spelled the quick end of the lodge though.
In 1747 the French conquered the Southern Netherlands and seem to have brought with them the idea of lodges of adoption. Willem Bentinck was an active person trying to form the Netherlands into a single, democratically ruled country and he played a leading role in the foundation of La Loge de Juste. Apparently his democratic ideas also involved the role of women.
Now comes an interesting part. When you look at the history of Freemasonry in the Netherlands, you will usually learn that in 1734 the first lodge was founded, a year later the second, but it took until 1756 that 10 lodges united to form “Groote Loge der Zeven Vereenigde Nederlanden” (‘grand lodge of the seven united Netherlands’), nowadays the Grand Orient of the Netherlands. Malcolm Davies has a slightly different history though.
The First Dutch Grand Master, Radermacher, died on 12 April 1748. He had been Premier Grand Maître de l’Illustre Ordre dans les Provinces Unies et du Ressort de la Généralité from June, 1735. On 24 June 1749, Joost Gerrit, (Juste Gerard) baron van Wassenaer (1716−1753) was installed as the new Grand Master.
The second Grand Master, the baron, was a friend of Willem Bentinck and when Bentinck founded La Loge de Juste, the baron turned the lodge into a Grand Lodge and was appointed Grand Master. Thus he became Grand Master of both the men-only as the mixed gender organisations.
This first Grand Lodge(s) went down under mismanagement and scandals and was dismantled in 1752. Four years later the (nowadays regular) organisation that exists this very day was founded with a “clean slate”.
The author suggests that part of the scandal was the recognition of the mixed gender lodge which even bore the baron’s name.
Then follows information about La Loge de Juste. Members were aristocrats and actors. The latter -in these days- were about the same as prostitutes. People who went to the opera even had to defend themselves and particularly state that they never came backstage. The combination of members of the lodge of high and low society of course drew attention from outsiders.
As I said, the lodge has been very active for a short while. Texts were written and published, also a songbook. What was also in the making were rituals. A certain St. Etienne wrote rituals for two higher grades. It is not certain if these were ever worked.
The author does find similarities with the rituals of a later Dutch mixed gender lodge L’Adoption ou la Maçonnerie des Femmes en trois Grades (The Hague, 1775). “The images and allegories used in the rituals described are taken from the Old Testament, e.g. Adam and Eve, Noah’s Ark, The Tower of Babel and Jacob’s Ladder.”
There is much information about the problematic finances of the lodge, problems which, probably in combination with some scandals, led to the demise of La Loge de Juste.
Davies makes some cross-references to adoption Freemasonry in France and a few to other mixed gender Masonic-like organisation such as the German Order of the Mopses (ca. 1740 – ca. 1770). Interesting to note is that the Grand Orient de France recognised the lodges of adoption in 1774, but because later they ran the risk of loosing regularity over this standpoint, the lodges of adoption were ‘disconnected’ and the Women’s Grand Lodge of France was founded.
All in all an interesting story of the problematic history of the involvement of women in Freemasonry.