Just recently I had an interesting conversation with Brother Bill Hosler, an active contributor here at The Midnight Freemasons. We started out by talking about the idea of women Freemasons and how we disagree with the notion of women being present in a lodge of Master Masons; more on this later. The conversation soon turned into affiliates of Freemasonry and one of the most well known organizations for women within Freemasonry. Of course that includes the Order of the Eastern Star. The Order of the Eastern Star has three official eras of existence; the first being during it's founding under Bro. Doctor and PGM Robert Morris in 1850, the second starting in 1866 and finally, today's era, which started in 1876. The thought of having women involved within Freemasonry has been long and thought out. And rightly so, as it is in our existence as an order to spread brotherly love throughout the world, who better than a woman to give us an example, such as the natural instincts of motherly nurture?
The Order of Eastern Star has requirements similar to Freemasonry. To be a member of their organization, you must be the directly related to a Master Mason, i.e.; wife, daughter (including legally adopted), mother, widow, sister, half-sister, grandmother, granddaughter, great granddaughter, aunt, niece and great nieces. stepfamily, i.e.: stepmother, daughters and sisters, In-laws; daughter-in-law, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, great granddaughters, nieces, and great nieces. Men can also join the organization provided they themselves are Master Masons in good standing. Which brings us to the sole purpose of this topic, Why are Master Masons involved in O.E.S?
I was told that O.E.S exemplifies chauvinistic qualities, that it somehow provides the notion that women cannot make decisions without some kind of approval from a male figure in their life. I thoroughly believe this to be not just false but furthest from the truth. It is true that in order for the Order of Eastern Star to convene, there must be a Master Mason present in the East. However, that does not signify that he makes all the determination for the Sister’s work. Now, before I go any further let me clarify, I am in no way, shape or form involved in O.E.S. I am solely a Master Mason who believes in the cause of our craft in it’s entirety.
So, if a Master Mason must be in a chair of power how is it that it isn’t chauvinistic? Let’s put it into perspective. In the appendant bodies of Freemasonry there must be some kind of representative in all of them. For example, If you are a Shriner, you must be a Master Mason, this was almost not the case in the state of Michigan (There was a tension amongst the Shrine and the Grand Lodge, you can read here).. To be in the Scottish or York Rites, you must also be a Master Mason. Being O.E.S is an appendant body of Freemasonry, and is no different in that respect. We as Master Masons have a responsibility to offer guidance to the organization to ensure Masonic qualities are being exemplified through out. The O.E.S is representing us after all.
This poses an issue that originally stimulated my conversation with Brother Hosler, if we must be present and guide O.E.S why not just initiate them into our fraternal organization? The simple answer is, it has everything to do with representation. Freemasonry and Order of Eastern Star are married, as such O.E.S represents Freemasonry. The Order was put into place to include our families but not go against our laws and regulations regarding Freemasonry. As such, whatever anyone does as a sister of the Order is doing so in the name of the Craft. However, whatever work we decide to do within our lodges does not represent O.E.S in anyway. If it is controversial to the Grand Lodge, the Grand Lodge will hold the members of the lodge responsible and not the members of O.E.S. However, if something is controversial amongst our sisters in O.E.S then it will be a direct reflection of the Master Mason’s. As such our marriage would be in tatters and a cause for divorce would be evident. After all, our organizations are married and the existence of O.E.S would cease due to the requirements of joining.
That being said, the Order of Eastern Star is a great organization that helps exemplify what we stand for in Freemasonry. O.E.S represents us in extremely amazing ways by supporting youth programs such as the De Molay, Job’s Daughters and Rainbow for Girls. They support different charities including Eastern Star Homes, a way to support seniors and assisted living homes, among other programs in the local communities. Where our lodges may support one aspect of different charities and community work, Order of Eastern Star acts as a secondary arm to send out more support where we may lack. I highly encourage you to look into the Order and decide if it is something you may be interested in. It will be just as rewarding as Blue Lodge, York and Scottish Rite. Together the Freemasonry family can change the world, all of us included from the 33rd Degree to the Blue Lodge, O.E.S, all the way down to our youth organizations.