What is International Co-Freemasonry and when did it start?

It was in Grande Loge Symbolique de France in 1882 that Mlle Maria Deraismes, a staunch worker and lecturer for the welfare of humanity in general and women's rights in particular, was initiated into masculine Freemasonry in the "Loge Libre Penseurs" in Pecq, a small town outside Paris. Thus started the important events that led up to the forming of the Order known as International Co-Freemasonry - Le Droit Humain.

Under the influence of Dr. Georges Martin a number of prominent women were initiated and a new mixed Lodge was founded in Paris in 1893 with Dr.Georges Martin becoming its founder. A Constitution was drawn up, under the title Grande Loge Symbolique Ecossaise Mixte de France, with its first lodge called Le Droit Humain, its activities restricted to Craft Masonry.

It was in 1900 that the Grande Loge symbolique Ecossaise Mixte de France was able, with the assistance of sympathetic members of the Grande Loge Symbolique de France, to establish a Supreme Council in the thirty three degrees of the Antient and Accepted Scottish Rite and administer the Order. Mlle Marie Deraismes was elected the first Grande Maitresse and President of the Supreme Council.

A number of well-known women in the international field of service to humanity were initiated into the Order. At this time Dr. Annie Besant, an English woman and prominent champion of women's rights, especially for the poor and under privileged, felt that Masonry should be open to men and women. On learning about the mixed masonic Lodge in Paris she applied to be initiated, and recognising the international potential of the Order, she obtained permission to form the first mixed Lodge in Great Britain.

The First Mixed or Co-Masonic Lodge in Great Britain and the founding of the British Federation..

A Co-masonic Lodge was consecrated on 26 th September 1902 in London by the Officers of the Supreme Council from Paris and it was given the title Lodge Human Duty No. 6. of which Dr.Besant was the first ruler. While the International Headquarters of the Order remained under the Supreme Council in Paris, the work in this country flourished and many men and women in sympathy with the equality of women joined the Order.

It seemed to Annie Besant, that Masonry had something to add to her spiritual progress. As a member of the Theosophical Society, she recognised that Freemasonry would attract men and women from all walks of life, who wished to work together to serve humanity through Co-Freemasonry.

Soon, many Lodges were started in Britain and the British Federation was formed to co-ordinate and assist their activities. As Annie Besant travelled around the English speaking world, her enthusiasm for and her understanding of, the inner side of Freemasonry, spread to India, Australia, Canada, South Africa and many other Countries.

The different Federations that make up this International Order, can choose if they wish to follow the strongest Order of male Masonry of their own country. Thus the British Federation, has chosen to follow the United Grand Lodge of England in its tenets and approach to Freemasonry, which require a belief in a Supreme Being, the presence of a Volume of Sacred Lore on which Obligations are taken, and the shared Great Principles of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.

The Craft Lodges in the British Federation soon adopted Rituals written in English rather than in French, and were working Emulation, Verulam and the Dharma ritual (from India) which later became the Lauderdale ritual. A Scottish and later an Irish ritual were also approved by the Supreme Council.

The British Federation follows the Order of International Co-Freemasonry-Le Droit Humain- in that all members work the Antient and Accepted Scottish Rite, and some side degrees of the York Rite. As well as Craft Lodges, the British Federation has also Mark Lodges, Royal Ark Mariner Lodges, Holy Royal Arch Chapters, Rose Croix Chapters, Knight Templar, Knight Kadosh, the 31st degree, the Consistory of the 32nd degree and Grand Council of the 33rd. degree- all of which are worked Ceremonially. International CoFreemasonry -Le Droit Humain- is governed by the Supreme Council of the 33rd degree, from Paris.

Last update : 18.02.99