Die Orden und Logen der Frauen- Guntram B. Seidler (2019)

There already are not too many books about mixed gender Freemasonry, but I frequently see that scholars find the subject of women-Freemasonry more interesting than that of mixed gender Freemasonry. The Orders and Lodges of Women; about the history of feminine Freemasonry is one such example. Of course it is impossible to write a book about female Freemasonry without touching upon the subject of mixed gender, so there is plenty of information about both forms of Freemasonry.

The 400+ page book is in German and it focuses (somewhat) on Germany and German speaking countries. Seidler also writes about other countries though. He also wrote about (women and) Freemasonry before.

Seidler puts the subject in quite a broad field, which explains the size of the book. We go from lady Masons in ancients texts (such as Gunnilda the Mason, a female operative mason mentioned by name as living in Norwich in the Calendar of Close Rolls for the year 1256) and references to lady Masons, which is often quite like On Holy Ground. Quickly we go to lodges of adoption, lodges that were founded for the wives of Freemasons which were usually under tutelage of a men’s lodge. There were different kinds of adoption lodges which the author describes. Interesting is that these lodges started to emerge very soon after the emergence of modern Freemasonry. Just like there are exposures of Masonic ritual, there are exposures of adoption rituals. In many, but not all, cases, these rituals differed. Some lodges of adoption also had ‘high degrees’.

A lengthy chapter is about organisations for men and women that were similar to Freemasonry. The subject of “friendly societies” is interesting in general. Seidler is mostly concerned about organisations that involved, or were even lead by, women.

Similar to, but different from, lodges of adoption type organisations for the wives of Freemasons started to develop in America. The most famous is the Order of the Eastern Star, but there are and there have been more such organisations. The author also describes how some of these organisations started to become more and more independent from male Masonic lodges.

Ironically, discussions about regularity lead to the ‘privatisation’ of femalecraft. The lodges of adoption became a problem for ‘London’ and in France it was decided to disconnect the adoption lodges and help the ladies to run their own organisation so that the Masonic order could keepsafe its regularity.

The development of mixed gender Freemasonry (sometimes “co-Freimaurerei” in the book, sometimes “co-Maurerei”, sometimes “gemischte Freimaurerei) in a few countries is described. Mostly France, but also the UK, the USA and Austria. For some reason not the Netherlands from where the first mixed gender lodges in Germany were founded (only the Order of Weavers is mentioned in a short chapter).

Some organisations went from mixed gender to women-only and that is what a few chapters are about and so the author comes to the actual subject of his book.

In general, the author is quite detailed about the countries that he writes about. Of many orders (the landscape is splintered) you get a shorter or longer history. Also Seidler writes about the (absence of) cooperation with other Masonic orders and comes with a somewhat simplistic solution to the question about recognition.

The book makes an interesting read. In some points it is fairly detailed, in other points it could have been a bit more detailed. Also some histories appear to have been skipped, perhaps to prevent the book from becoming too large. And of course, it is in German, so the audience is limited. But at least know that another descent book about mixed gender and women only Freemasonry exists.

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