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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Grand Orient of France Opens To Women

France's L'Express reports today that the Grand Orient of France, the largest grand lodge in that country with 50,000 members, has officially opened the door to initiating women. The GO is unrecognized by the overwhelming majority of Freemasons around the world.

The original article can be read here. What follows is my translation:

The Grand Orient Opens To Women

Electroshock in a very masculine Masonic landscape, the premiere obedience of 50,000 strong French brothers on Friday officially recognized the freedom of its lodges to initiate women.

Will the Grand Orient become a mixed obedience?
The Grand Orient (GO), an almost three century old federation of Lodges where only men had been fully initiated, regularly submitted the matter to its annual convention in September, but a majority never emerged in favor of allowing lodges to accept sisters or to initiate women. This refusal appears quite regressive, in view of the [fact that 17% of all French Freemasons are women, a proportion that has remained constant since 2000.] The current Grand Master [of the Grand Orient], Pierre Lambicchi, chose to change methods—namely by not waiting for further consultation with lodge representatives in September— in two ways:

1. On January 21, 2010, Olivia Chaumont, a transsexual, was recognized as a sister of the Grand Orient. This was an innovation, since the predecessors of Pierre Lambicchi had preferred to discreetly direct the brothers who became women to the mixed or feminine Lodges.

2. On April 8, 2010, the Supreme Court of Masonic Justice (CSJM) decided that the lodges are free to initiate women without violating the General Regulations of the obedience. The CSJM was written to by Pierre Lambicchi himself two weeks ago, The Grand Master wanted it to consider the question posed by [GO] lodges that initiated six women a year ago. In spite of the disavowal by the majority of the brethren in a vote of the convention in September 2009, they continued arguing that they had the right to initiate whomever they wanted in their own [lodges].

In view of this critical decision by the CSJM, the six women initiated into the Grand Orient in a quasi clandestine manner could be officially recognized by the obedience. Other sisters are certain to follow them.

Will the Grand Orient become a mixed obedience? In fact, yes. Officially, no. "We are not statutorily a mixed obedience," Pierre Lambicchi explained to L'Express. [Is this just] Masonic subtlety to calm tensions on a controversial issue? [Or] a prudent statement about what, in the land of the "Brothers of the three points," constitutes a small revolution.


  1. This is good news. I can foresee a time when the debate changes from those jurisdictions that accept atheists vs. theists changes to one of those that accept women as Freemasons to those that do not.

    With this development we now have only mixed (co-masonic) and women only bodies in the largest liberal jurisdictions.

    Other than the Women's Grand Lodges of Belgium and France, the major European jurisdictions are all now are mixed.

    I have attended meetings of a Women's lodge in Los Angeles and other than the fact that I cannot vote on lodge business, the meetings are open to men.

    Women Masons have always been welcome at the Grand Orient of France as visitors. Now they can be members as well.

    To all intents and purposes, Liberal European Freemasonry is Co-masonic now.

  2. Well, perhaps. But consider some stats. The Grand Orient of France has 30,000 members in France itself. The Grande Loge de France has about 20,000, and the Grande Loge Nationale Française has about 28,000. The GLdF and GLNF with a combined membership of 48,000 is male only. And out of 30,000 members of the GOF, less than 10 are female. And bear in mind that the Grand Master of the GOF pulled this off without a vote. It will be interesting to see how their September annual meeting goes. He may get trundled off to the Place de la Revolution for his actions. With existing female and co-masonic grand lodges already at work in France, I'm not really sure why there has been this internal struggle in the GOF, apart from the fact that they are the kind of liberals too open minded to take their own side in an argument. I any case, it could wind up sending GOF men who are strongly against the move off running for GLdF or GLNF membership. More interesting will be whether this opens the floodgates to women joining the GOF or not.

    You say the major European jurisdictions are now all mixed? I don't understand this statement. England? Germany? Sweden? Italy? Spain? Greece? Romania? Poland?

  3. Hi Chris,

    I might have overstated when I made the remark about European jurisdictions. I meant that most of the Liberal Jurisdictions, i.e., those that belong to CLIPSAS, are either mixed, or accept men and women as visitors to their lodges if they are male or female lodges.

    In Los Angeles, the lodges that I can visit are Art et Lumiere of the GOdF, which is male and accepts female visitors, Aletheia of the Women's Grand Lodge of Belgium, Lodge Unification of La Droit Humain, which is mixed, and of course my own lodge, New Isis of the GWU, which is mixed. One big happy family.

    If, (and I agree with you that GOdF might have an issue with the latest decision at their annual meeting) women are allowed into GOdF lodges as members, most of the Liberal Grand Lodges/Orients, at least in France will be mixed. In the case of the Grand Loge Feminine de France and the Women's Grand Lodge of Belgium, brothers are always welcome as visitors.

    My understanding is that the situation is quite similar among Liberal Obediences in Belgium, Spain, Italy and other European nations.

  4. @San Diego freemason

    The so called liberal (mixed)jurisdicitions in Germany are hard to find.
    As far as I know there is:
    Le droit humain = 1 Loge in Berlin
    GL Humanitas = 9 Lodges ca. 170 members.
    Then we do have "SGOvD" the Souvereign Grand Orient from Germany" But that is more or less a virtual GL, build by a few expelled and a few unsatidfied masons. They claim to have two lodges in Germany.

    Inside the United Grand Lodges of Gemany,- the only recognized body- there are ca. 12.000 brothers in five Gls.

    Brother Rolf

  5. Brother Rolf,

    Interesting that you should mention the SGOvD. It was their Grand Secretary that first directed me to the George Washington Union in 2008.

    Yes, we are small Obediences in comparison to the Regular Jurisdictions.

    Still, we practice Freemasonry as we feel that it was originally intended to be practiced.

    Incidentally, though we are not accepted as masons by the Regulars, we welcome Regular masons in our lodges, at least the ones that I have experience with.

    Paul Bessel lists in Germany the bodies that you mention, as well as the Female Grand Lodge of Germany, and a Grand Orient of Germany that is separate from the SGOvD.

  6. @San Diego,
    this was in no way meant as an offense, just as information. Indeed, I've forgotten the order of female freemsons in Germany. I have never heard of the Grand Orient of Germany, and beeing a mason for 23 years and WM this year, I should have heard of. The link on paul Bessels site doesn't work either, so I guess thats just fiction.

    I have no problem at all with co-masonry. There is a lodge of the mixed GL "Humunitas" that does rent our lodge house once a month. Quit nice people, although we do not communicate masonicly. That doesn't mean you can't have a glass of wine, and discuss life as such.
    I am sure that "mixed" or liberal masonry tries to work on the temple salonis, as we do. Perhaps, on a different wall :-).
    I, for myself feel sorry about the change in the GOdF. In its very beginnings, Germany's Freemasonry was developed with much help from the french.
    Historicel truth is also, that after WWII, the recovery of the craft couldn't have been done in the french sector without the help of Brothers from differnet french jurisdictions.

    I have great sympathie for the history of the GOdF., I just feel a little bit, like the old granny is getting a little more far out,
    and harder to reach for communication.



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