Call for papers CRFF

The Centre for Research into Freemasonry and Fraternalism invites papers and panel proposals for a conference at the University of Sheffield on 16 and 17 September 2010. Paper and panel proposals may cover any aspect of the conference theme: 'British freemasonry in the long Eighteenth century', based upon original research. The conference organisers especially encourage submissions from young researchers in the field of study. The deadline for submission of proposals (max. 350 words) is 1 October 2009. For information and registration please contact: Dr. Andreas Önnerfors, a.onnerfors@sheffield.ac.uk.


Swiss masonic library online

The Bibliotheca Masonica August Belz in Switserland has been working on an online database to facilitate research of its collection. Since March 2009, all titles have been included in the database, which can be searched online here.

Exhibition: Freemasonry and the French Revolution

The Library and Museum of Freemasonry in London is showing an exhibition on 'Freemasonry and the French Revolution' from 1st July until 18th December 2009. The French Revolution which began in 1789 changed forever the relationship between freemasonry and the state. In England, freemasonry was non-political and the discussion of politics at Masonic meetings was forbidden (as continues to be the situation today) but after 1789 English freemasons had to deal with the consequences of revolutionary politics and Masonic lodges avoided closure only by agreeing to register lists of their members with local authorities. This remained a legal requirement until 1967 when the Labour Government led by Harold Wilson abolished the Unlawful Societies Act. Freemasonry had spread from Britain across continental Europe in the early 1700s and there freemasons were blamed for causing the Revolution and the subsequent political and social unrest which many countries experienced. The suspicion of freemasonry which arose at that time has had a longlasting impact on politics and society. The exhibition traces the impact of the Revolution on freemasonry in England and Europe.
Those unable to visit London may be interested in the Museum's online exhibitions, which are regularly expanded to include new topics.

Conference: Dissemination of masonic practices

The University of Nice-Sophia Antipoulis hosts a conference on 2 and 3 July 2009 on the subject of 'Diffusions et circulations des pratiques maçonniques en Europe et en Méditerranée, XVIIIe-XIXe siècles'. The full program can be viewed on the Pietre Stones website. Contact information: Centre de la Méditerranée Moderne et Contemporaine-MSH de Nice, cmmc@unice.fr

Call for papers: Women and freemasonry

The organizers of the upcoming conference 'Women and freemasonry since the Enlightenment' have distributed the following call for papers:

Today women are still largely absent from Masonic lodges. Yet few rational arguments can be summoned to account for such an exclusion. The argument of tradition, which is the most frequently put forward, only holds for Anderson's Constitutions as no such explicit ban against women can be found in the Old Charges. The significance of Elisabeth Aldworth St Leger's initiation by an Irish Lodge is probably more symbolical than historical as it was a single occurrence never repeated. Yet the event was never denied by the Irish masons at the time, although it probably deterred the "brethren" from renewing the experience and mostly reinforced their convictions on the issue of female initiation. Women however did enter the lodges afterwards, first in the lodges of adoption, and later in co-masonry as well as specific female lodges.

The lodges of adoption have sometimes been considered as a low key form of masonry, a kind of ersatz masonry meant to humour women. Yet their importance and significance should not be underplayed as Margaret Jacob and Janet Burke in particular have recently shown. The lodges of adoption which emerged in Holland and France during the Enlightenment highlight the main features of women's commitment in those days, with the same limitations, namely the elitist and aristocratic component. Yet they conveyed some important values, let alone possibly through their rituals, and they allowed women to play an unprecedented part in the public sphere, not unlike the celebrated "French salons".

We may wonder whether those lodges merely reflected the society of their time or whether they anticipated and even encouraged the emancipation of women. How emblematical are they of Enlightenment sociability? Quite significantly the adoption lodges lost lustre at the same time as the Enlightenment. When they emerged again as the Eastern Star in the United States in the following century they were quite different. The nineteenth century Masonic world was predominantly a male one and it would be interesting to find the reasons why. One has to wait till the end of the 19th century to find a female presence again in Masonic lodges with women such as Annie Besant, Madame Blavatsky, Clémence Royer or Louise Michel, sometimes in close connection with the Theosophical Society, as in the case of Annie Besant.

The conference shall endeavour to identify the main evolutions in women's commitment, both through co masonry, which appeared at the end of the nineteenth century and through female lodges which date back to the twentieth century only. All those women fought for equality, but some hoped to reach it alongside with men while others opted for autonomy in separate lodges. We shall try to understand those choices both in terms of structures and rituals. We shall focus on the social composition of co masonry and women's lodges, and try to assess how far they committed themselves to the society of their time or preferred to remain discreet. Women's' lodges developed in some countries only, we shall try to suggest possible explanations for such disparity. Lodges and Grand Lodges as well as individual itineraries will be studied.

The different factors of exclusion need to be addressed:
- the cultural, social and political factor. Is there a direct link between the development of co masonry and women's lodges on the one hand and social progress, women's emancipation and strong feminist movements in the twentieth and twenty first centuries? Why do Scandinavian countries, which have become respectful of women's rights, or the United Kingdom, the Suffragettes' country which enfranchised women long before France, lag behind in terms of female initiation?
- the religious factor. How far does the religious context inform the issue of women's initiation? Can one identify different attitudes in Catholic, Protestant, Islamic or Orthodox countries?
- the Masonic factor : the rift between English speaking freemasonry and "liberal" freemasonry dates back to 1877, when the Grand Orient de France decided to grant complete liberty of conscience to its members instead of imposing a belief in the Supreme being. Curiously enough the issue of women's admission into freemasonry has also been a dividing one ever since that time. English speaking Grand Lodges and their affiliates exclude women, whereas "liberal" ones accept the idea of initiation, even if the statement needs to be qualified for the latter.

Several levels of exclusion can be identified today : women can either be considered as unfit for initiation, which is still officially the case in the United Kingdom, the USA and in all the Grand Lodges which pay allegiance to the United Grand Lodge of England and in the Prince Hall Grand Lodges, or their presence can be accepted and encouraged but in separate organizations, not considered as Masonic but meant to enhance the male lodges through their charity work: this is the case of the Eastern Star chapters. As to the Women Freemasons, they are still deprived of official recognition by the United Grand Lodge of England. Finally, the "liberal" Grand Lodges are themselves divided on the issue of women's admission into the lodges. Some have opted for co masonry; others have put the admission of women on the agenda, while others reject the very notion.
How far can one speak of Masonic universalism, how far does gender inform the Masonic issue? The conference purpose is twofold. It shall address the problem of women's exclusion under its various guises and try to uncover some of the motivations, and it shall also concentrate on the specificity of female freemasonry both in time and space, from the earliest lodges to the modern ones, in Europe, Asia and the Americas. Conversely we shall wonder how feminist criticism has viewed women's freemasonry, from the lodges of adoption to contemporary lodges. The organizers welcome different approaches, and would like the historical and geographical scopes to be broad enough to allow for a better understanding of differences, common points and evolutions.

The conference is the result of cooperation between several research institutes: Lumières Nature Société, Université de Bordeaux 3 sponsored by the Conseil Régional d'Aquitaine; CELFF, CNRS, Université de Paris IV Sorbonne; Laboratoire CIRTAI-IDEES, équipe de l'UMR 6228 (CNRS) Université du Havre; Sheffield Centre for Research into Freemasonry, Université de Sheffield; Centre de recherche sur la franc-maçonnerie; FREE, Université de Bruxelles; Center for the Study of Women, UCLA and Université Sapienza, Rome.

Conference: 'Women and freemasonry since the Enlightenment', 17-19/06/2010, at Bordeaux University and Musée d'Aquitaine. Contact: Cecile.revauger@u-bordeaux3.fr


Call for papers: American Freemasonry

The National Heritage Museum in Lexington, Massachusetts (USA) announces a call for papers for its first biannual symposium, 'New Perspectives on American Freemasonry and Fraternalism', to be held on Friday, April 9, 2010 at the Museum.
The National Heritage Museum is an American history museum founded and supported by Scottish Rite Freemasons in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the US. As the repository of the largest collection of American Masonic and fraternal objects, books and manuscripts in the United States, the Museum aims to foster new research on American fraternalism and to encourage the use of its scholarly resources.

The symposium seeks to present the newest research on American fraternal groups from the past through the present day. By 1900, over 250 American fraternal groups existed, numbering six million members. The study of their activities and influence in the United States, past and present, offers the potential for new interpretations of American society and culture. Diverse perspectives on this topic are sought; proposals are invited from a broad range of research areas or any combination of disciplines, and may forcus on any time periods. Possible topics include:

• Comparative studies of American fraternalism and European or other international forms of fraternalism
• Prince Hall Freemasonry and other African-American fraternal groups
• Ethnically- and religiously-based fraternal groups
• Fraternal groups for women or teens
• Role of fraternal groups in social movements
• The material culture of Freemasonry and fraternalism
• Anti-Masonry and anti-fraternal movements, issues and groups
• Fraternal symbolism and ritual
• The expression of Freemasonry and fraternalism through art, music, and literature
• Approaches to Freemasonry – from disciplinary, interdisciplinary, or transnational perspectives; the historiography and methodology of the study of American fraternalism

Proposals for papers of 30 minutes are welcomed. These should include an abstract (max. 400 words), c.v. (max. 2 pages), affiliation and full contact details of the speaker. Deadline for submissions is August 15, 2009. Contact address: mrs. Aimee E. Newell, Senior Curator of Collections, National Heritage Museum, anewell@monh.org.

Scholars at CRFF and UCLA

The Centre for Research into Freemasonry and Fraternalism at the University of Sheffield has announced an addition to its scholarly team: Róbert Péter (PhD, University of Szeged, Hungary). He will be a visiting scholar until September 2009, made possible by the British Academy Visiting Fellowship Scheme and an Eötvös Scholarship from the Hungarian government.
Péter's research focuses on ideological aspects of English freemasonry. His thesis on the subject of The Mysteries of English Freemasonry: Janus-Faced Masonic Ideology and Practice Between 1696 and 1815 was completed in 2006. Péter is review editor for the Journal for Research into Freemasonry and Fraternalism.

The CRFF Newsletter also mentions the award of a post-doctoral fellowship in the history of fraternalism and freemasonry at the History department at the University of California in Los Angeles (USA) to mrs. Natalie Bayer, (Ph.D. Rice University). Bayer's research focusses on Russian freemasonry, and foreign contacts in the period 1750 to 1850. In addition, a Research Assistantship at UCLA will go to Matthew Crow, graduate student in American history with an interest in republicanism and Thomas Jefferson. Both scholars will develop one course each at UCLA on the history of European and American fraternalism and freemasonry.


The Oxford Architectural History Seminar will be held in St. John's College in Oxford this May. This series of lectures will focus on the famous park and house in Chiswick near London. On 18 May 2009 James Campbell (University of Cambridge) will discuss 'Wren and Freemasonry: separating myth from fact'. More information: geoffrey.tyack@kellogg.ox.ac.uk