A sense of disbelief always accompanies any statement that I make about being a Freemason. Infuriatingly, some especially macho men have refused to believe me despite the evidence that I possess of the apron and gloves. Long seen as a male bastion, it is a little known fact that women are able to be admitted into the order. In fact, this has been a practice since 1931.
I was admitted into the order of the Seton Challen lodge based in Central London in 2002. There is a tradition of freemasonry among the males in my family and I was strongly influenced by the camaraderie and sense of charitable giving that drove the movement. I let my membership lapse, sadly, because coping with a 2-year old, part-time work and everything else just made it impossible for me to keep up with the sessions. However, the ladies who welcomed me were model examples of the factors I describe above that attracted me to apply to the order. I have no regrets of joining, only of having to give it up.
My memories have been stirred by the press coverage this week of how the International Order of Co-Freemasonry is trying to dispel an image of being an all male club that practises rituals which do not accord with modern day thinking. I went through my initiation 11 years ago and found it quite exciting. The warmth extended towards me when I passed was indicative of the strong union of friendship that exists in the Freemasonry. My father who died 17 years ago was a Lodge Master and his order still remembers to invite my mother to special events that they host.
I am a practising feminist Christian and nothing that went on in the meetings contradicted either of my beliefs. If anything, a traditional atheist female would probably find matters more offensive than someone like me. Feminists exist within different social groupings and the female freemasonry movement is one. I can't speak for the male order. According to an article in The Guardian this week the 'male masonry is peopled by old grey beards, the aristocracy, major generals of the army and they're nearly all male chauvinists'. Now, that is an outdated attitude in this day and age.