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Title: Women Freemasons and feminist causes 1908-1935 : the case of the Honourable Fraternity of Antient Masonry
Author: Pilcher-Dayton, Ann Jessica
ISNI:       0000 0004 2738 9044
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2012
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An important but hitherto unstudied aspect of the women's movement in Britain between 1900 and 1935 was the appearance of organisations of Freemasons which admitted women. This thesis is a case study of one such body, the Honourable Fraternity of Antient Masonry (HFAM). The roots of women's Freemasonry reach back to the eighteenth-century French Lodges of Adoption. In 1902, the social reformer and Theosophist Annie Besant established a lodge of the French-based International Order of Co-Freemasonry, Le Droit Humain, in London. In 1908, the clergyman William Cobb led a secession from Besant's Order and created the HFAM, which under the charismatic leadership of Cobb and his successor Marion Halsey, became the largest British Masonic Order admitting women. An analysis of HFAM's social composition shows the dominance of aristocratic women during the period before 1914 and illustrates the functioning of social networks in support of the women's movement. HFAM mobilised these networks to support the campaign for women's suffrage. An innovative social experiment by the HFAM was the establishment in 1916 of the Halsey Training College to train secondary school teachers. With the expansion of the social basis of HFAM's membership after the First World War, HFAM's organisation of its philanthropic activities changed with the establishment of its Bureau of Service. This smaller-scale but more diverse social programme undertook effective work at a local level but ultimately proved unsustainable. The HFAM illustrates many structural issues of the women's movement: the importance of quasi-religions such as Theosophy; the leadership of aristocratic women; the importance of male support; and the effect of a shift to more local activities and a wider middle class membership after the First World War. In particular, the HFAM provides new perspectives on interpretations of the idea of the complementarity of the sexes within the women's movement to 1935.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available