Honestly, the answer is pretty simple. Women deserve to have the right to join us if they so desire. Women can enjoy and learn from our mysteries as much as men can. There is nothing in our mysteries that appeals to men only. Our fraternity teaches universal lessons that all of humankind can learn from. If a woman wants to learn our secrets, and meets our qualifications, I say we allow them to do so. If we can belong to an organization that teaches the universality of mankind regardless of his race or religion, then why do we not also teach this about gender? It seems hypocritical to me that we stop there. Can we not form similar bonds with females that we have with our brothers now? I believe we can.
I know the argument is that all fraternal organizations, including those that allow women are seeing a decline. This is true. The numbers are there. They show a decrease across the board. The Masonic fraternity has lost 3.8 million members since the late 1950’s according to one article I read. So why bother with admitting women? Aside from the answer above, we’re excluding one half of the population as potential members. We’re also not seen as very progressive, which is hurting us with our target membership pool, which are Millennials.
We need to attract Millennials if we want our organization to survive. I know, we have many millennial members of our fraternity. As of 2012, it was estimated that there were approximately 80 million millennials in the U.S. However, there is another reason I say this. Millennial women outperform millennial men in the classroom. As of 2015, 57 percent of the undergraduate population were women. They are in general known for being determined, confident, intelligent and curious. They are always seeking new ways to improve. Are our lessons not perfect for them?
Furthermore, Millennials generally as a trait are civic-oriented, ethical, globally – minded, authentic, compassionate, progressive and liberal. Our belief in the universality of brotherhood regardless of race or religion could be easily expanded to add gender. I believe that with including women, we would see our fraternity undergo a renaissance. We would need to market ourselves to them of course, but instead of saying we make good men better, what better phrase to use but: We make good people into extraordinary people.
Think of how many members’ wives, girlfriends, daughters, granddaughters, or great granddaughters might be interested in joining as well. For many years they’ve wondered about what goes on behind the closed doors. Here’s that chance to engage them. I know as current master of my lodge, I have a hard time getting my members to show up to events because they have other obligations to their families. But if their wife, or family were also members, I wonder how many might show up? Maybe I’m being optimistic, but I’m willing to bet that it might increase their engagement in our activities. I know several Masons that only have daughters. I’d be willing to bet that some of them might like to be able to see their daughters join Freemasonry, and be able to share the experiences of our gentle craft with them.
There could also be an economic benefit. I just attended the Grand Lodge session in Illinois, where our Grand Lodge made a desperate plea to increase the per capita by $20 dollars a year. (It was amended down to $20 dollars from $25 dollars.) This amendment was voted down by the Illinois Brethren. I also watched as another amendment to allow individual lodges to hold two raffles a year was amended to allow lodges to allow gambling where permissible by local laws, which was also defeated.
My point is: Our beloved fraternity is hurting for money, at both the Grand Lodge level and individual lodge level. Would you rather allow all forms of gambling be part of our organization instead of allowing women? Do you want to see every lodge turned into a video poker parlor or casino? Would we be having these discussions if we had the other half of the population as potential members? If we had women members, they would also be contributing dues at a local level and more per capita to the Grand Lodges.
Of course, I know we’re a long way off from this. We still have many Grand Lodges in the United States that haven’t even recognized Prince Hall in their state as Regular, which is another issue altogether. However, we need to adapt or die. I love Masonry. I love the friendships I have made and the bond between my brothers and I. I don’t want to have future generations lose the chance to make those authentic connections. I fear that if we don’t adapt, that they will.
WB Darin A. Lahners is the Worshipful Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph and a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL). He’s a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of the new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter U.D. and is the current Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club No. 768 in Champaign – Urbana (IL). He is also a member of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees. When he’s not busy enjoying Masonic fellowship, Darin spends his time as a DM for his children’s D&D campaign, reading, golfing, watching movies and listening to music. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.