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WOMEN TALKING FREEMASONRY - Susan Henderson – UGLE Communications Adviser

and Member of HFAF

present at both the meetings of a bona fi de regular male Lodge and its female equivalent. However, working for the (male) United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) at its headquarters in Great Queen Street, London and also being a member of the (female) Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons (HFAF), I am probably in an easier position than most to hold a view on that unanswerable question.


The fi rst thing to explain is that UGLE does not recognise any female Grand Lodges. In the view of the United Grand Lodge of England a “regular” Lodge is one that follows a similar practice to themselves, particularly “the ancient landmarks”, and does not, for example, allow the discussion of politics or religion at Lodge meetings. A “recognised” Grand Lodge is something different. To be recognised, a Grand Lodge must practice “regular” Freemasonry, although that alone will not automatically lead to recognition. Recognition means that intervisitation is allowed between Lodges, so that a member of UGLE can attend Lodge meetings of any recognised Grand Lodge around the world, and vice versa.

UGLE cannot recognise any female Grand Lodge, because recognition means that attendance at each other’s Lodge meetings would be permitted, and, this is the important point: neither the ladies nor the men want to do so. However, UGLE agrees that both the women’s Grand Lodges operating in England – the HFAF and the Order of Women Freemasons (OWF) practice regular Freemasonry, and there is a good informal relationship between them including co-operation on matters of mutual interest such as making use of each other’s premises.

As far as I can tell, from my unique vantage point, we men and women do everything exactly the same so far as the practical aspects of Freemasonry are concerned, using the same ritual books and so on. Yet, that is not to say that female Freemasonry and male Freemasonry are at all similar in atmosphere or emphasis, any more than men and women are the same – they may be equal, but they are clearly not the same. Our social activities might be particularly different: the last HFAF ones I attended were a theatre visit, a line dancing night, an evening with


am often asked how female Freemasonry compares with male Freemasonry, and one answer to that is that nobody knows, as nobody has ever been

a psychic and an Indian Cookery demonstration. Next in the pipeline is a stay at a health spa. So much of what we all do these days in everyday life is in a mixed-sex environment that being in a single-sex environment can be a refreshing change. It is a fact that mixed company gives rise to social pressures that some people are often more relaxed and comfortable without.

It has been my impression that the ladies place a lot of emphasis on the everyday aspect of ‘brotherly love’, and are particularly good at not failing to notice that the attendance of a particular member of their Lodge has tailed off, or that someone is not their usual perky self, perhaps because of some diffi culties being experienced at home, or work, or with health, and are good at fi nding ways in which they each as individuals might help. The men are impressive at charity on a grand scale, raising fantastic amounts for very good causes. I also suspect that women tend to take their Freemasonry a little more contemplatively, preferring to progress naturally in due course. If my Lodge is anything to go by, I fear we women are a little more fussy over the details too, sometimes to a detrimental extent. Of course this is only my personal perspective, others might feel differently - but you try watching four older ladies vying to demonstrate to a young member the best way to fold and lay the Third Degree fl oor cloth!

Although I have far to go in my own personal Masonic journey, as Communications Adviser at UGLE I have had the privilege of being surrounded by a ready supply of expertise on different aspects of Freemasonry. is a perpetual satisfaction to be gained in passing on helpful information to enquirers, whether Freemasons or members of the public. I imagine you would be surprised at the scale and breadth of queries received in our tiny Communications Department, and yet for some reason I never tire of the challenge of researching the answer to obscure questions. I take particular pleasure in being able to refute the common misconceptions that are perpetuated in the media. It is rewarding to feel that you have helped change someone’s view, particularly when portraying to non-members that Freemasonry is a benevolent organisation for people from all backgrounds to meet together in harmony; where the discussion of politics and religion and the use of membership for personal fi nancial gain is not allowed; where networking and self-promotion are frowned upon; that we do


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