Freemasonry is a fraternal organization that encourages morality and charity for men from every race and creed that has been established all over the world. Much has been made about Freemasonry’s secrecy and the seemingly exclusive requirements for membership. Especially in our egalitarian society, the lack of women members is reason for uncertainty concerning the organization’s principles.
Though the Lodge and many other organizations in the Masonic family invite only men to be members, the Freemasons have long recognized the value of their women and children. Beginning in the mid-eighteenth century, master masons established organizations for their wives, sisters, mothers and daughters so that they too might be involved in the charity and fraternity of the organization.
All these organizations are related to the Freemasons in practice and purpose. They follow strict moral codes. Initiates are expected to believe in a Supreme Being; however it might be defined in their own religion. The groups gather for fellowship and for service, often adopting a specific charity to which they have committed their financial and physical support. The organizations follow a written ritual that defines their system of values, often based on Biblical texts and spiritual understanding.
The Order of the Eastern Star was started during the mid-1800’s. Dr. Rob Morris is credited with the birth of the Order, which he began because he was not satisfied that Freemasonry should be confined to men. The teachings of the Order are based on the heroic, often sacrificial, and moral conduct of women in the bible.
The Order of the Amaranth is a similar organization, founded in 1873. Based on the court of Queen Christina of Sweden, Amaranth teaches the virtues of truth, faith, wisdom and charity and the teachings remind members of their duty to God and mankind.
The Order of the White Shrine of Jerusalem was created in 1894 to provide a way for the women related to Masons to support the work of that organization. This non-prophet organization focuses on the spiritual, charitable and fraternal aspects of a woman’s life. While some of the other Masonic bodies do not specify a religious foundation for members, White Shrine requires members to believe in Jesus Christ as Savior of the world. The word “White” in the Order’s name is representative of the purity of Jesus’ life.
The Daughters of the Nile, formed in 1913, and Ladies of the Oriental Shrine, begun in 1903, are organizations for those related to men who are Shriners. They assist Shriners with their charity work while promoting fellowship within the groups.
The Freemasons have not forgotten the need to give their youth a safe place to practice the same virtues espoused in their lessons. The Order of DeMolay was created in 1919 by Frank S. Land to give the sons of Master Masons a place to grow in confidence, wisdom and courage. DeMolay teaches the young men virtues that make them better leaders and prepare them for their own initiation into the Freemasons.
For the young ladies, the Freemasons have two separate organizations. The International Order of Job’s Daughters began in 1920, founded by Mrs. Ethel T. Wead Mick and is open to young ladies between ten and twenty years old. The girls are part of an organization that instills confidence, leadership and skills necessary for life. They serve the community through fun and exciting projects. The International Order of the Rainbow for Girls is another organization for young women. Rainbow Girls was founded in 1922 by Reverend William Mark Sexson, a Christian minister, with similar purpose to the other Masonic organizations. The major difference is that Rainbow Girls is open to members who are not related to Master Masons. Girls who are friends of Rainbow Girls are invited to join.
These organizations, as well as the many Masonic bodies specifically designed for men, provide a fraternal fellowship of like-minded people who desire to serve God and their community in fun and exciting ways. Like the Freemasons, these organizations have their own rituals and secrets – handshakes, passwords and rites – yet the members are not secretive as they are actively involved in their communities.