The short answer to this question is that Freemasonry is not for men only. In fact, women Freemasons have two separate Grand Lodges, conduct their own activities, and proceed on their Masonic journeys in exactly the same way as men.
It is true, however, that women don’t attend Masonic lodges that are operated by men. The fact that men and women don’t mix in lodges causes some people to question the morality of such conduct, but it’s nothing sinister.
When Freemasonry was formed in 1717, the roles of men and women were very different from what they are today. The role of women in Freemasonry was to keep the home and raise the family, while men were tasked with going to work and earning money.
Freemasonry evolved from the stonemason’s guilds of the Middle Ages, and appealed to working men who sought to socialize with their co-workers outside of their daily work schedule.
As such, Freemasonry welcomed men only, as women were not active within the social spheres in which Masonic lodge meetings were conducted. Although an outdated way of thinking from a modern perspective, this was very much normal for the time.
It would certainly be fair to ask why Freemasonry hasn’t changed with the times and adapted to invite women to join lodges. In some respects, it has. Both Freemasonry for Women and the Order of Women Freemasons are long established and well respected by the United Grand Lodge of England.
In the present day, women Freemasons contribute to the Masonic tradition just as much as men do, follow exactly the same ceremonies, and wear the same regalia. Originally founded in 1908 as the Honourable Order of Ancient Masonry, the Order of Women Freemasons initially welcomed both men and women, but by 1935 it was an exclusively female organization.
The order accepts women of all faiths, so long as they’re of good character and over the age of 21. With more than 4,000 members and over 300 Craft Lodges, their outreach isn’t quite as pronounced as their male counterparts, but they still operate within many different communities in several parts of the world.
Given the way in which our collective global society’s ideals have progressed in the past century, it would be foolish for anyone to question the validity or merit of Women’s Freemasonry. In fact, both male and female Freemasonry deserve to be held in equal regard, as they seek to serve the same purpose and gender should be considered irrelevant.
Whether men or women, the fact that people are still passionate about participating in Freemasonry is something that should be celebrated, and we should be grateful to all those that dedicate their time to fundraising for charity and preserving the secrets of the Craft.