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History of Le Droit Humain

The International Order of Mixed Freemasonry Le Droit Humain was founded in France in the late nineteenth century, during a period of strong feminist and women's suffrage campaigning. It was the first Co-Masonic Order, and also the first truly international Masonic Order. Today it has members from over 60 countries worldwide and is organized into 23 federations and 6 juridictions[2].
French Masonry had long attempted to include women, the Grand Orient de France having allowed Rites of Adoption as early as 1774,[3][4] by which Lodges could "adopt" sisters, wives and daughters of Freemasons, imparting to them the mysteries of several degrees.[5]
In 1879, following differences among members of the Supreme Council of France, twelve lodges withdrew from it and founded the Grande Loge Symbolique Ecossaise (GLSE). One of these Lodges, Les Libres Penseurs (The Free Thinkers) in Le Pecq, reserved in its charter the right to initiate women as Freemasons, proclaiming the essential equality of man and woman.


Maria Deraismes

Maria Deraismes, co-founder of Co-Freemasonry, Le Droit Humain

On January 14, 1882, Maria Deraismes, a well-known humanitarian, feminist author and lecturer, was initiated into Les Libres Penseurs, after of the lodge withdrew from its Grand Lodge . The Worshipful Master, Bro. Houbron, justified this act as having the highest interests of humanity at heart, and as being a perfectly logical application of the principle of "A Free Mason in a Free Lodge".
In 1890 the Lodge La Jérusalem Écossaise, also of the Grande Loge Symbolique Ecossaise, petitioned other Lodges for the establishment of a new order of Freemasonry that would accept both men and women. This time La Jérusalem Lodge did not propose to initiate women itself, but to create a new order working in parallel. The main proponent of this was Dr. Georges Martin, a French senator, advocate of equal rights for women, and also a member of Les Libres Penseurs.

Georges Martin, co-founder of Co-Freemasonry, Le Droit Humain.

On March 14, 1893, Deraismes, Martin and several other male Freemasons founded La Respectable Loge, Le Droit Humain, Maçonnerie Mixte (Worshipful Lodge, Human Rights, Co-Masonry) in Paris. They initiated, passed and raised sixteen prominent French women.
Shortly after, on April 4 of the same year, the first Grand Lodge of Co-Freemasonry was established, the Grande Loge Symbolique Écossaise Mixte de France (Grand Lodge of Mixed Scottish Rite Freemasonry of France), which would later become known as the International Order of Co-Freemasonry "Le Droit Humain". This was a radical departure from most other forms of Freemasonry, for not only did the new order not require belief in a Supreme Being (the Grand Orient de France had discarded this requirement in 1877)—it opened its doors to all of humanity who were "... just, upright and free, of mature age, sound judgment and strict morals."
As early as 1895 the Lodge Le Droit Humain (with no number) was travelling around—to Vernon, Blois, Rouen and Havre, in what were called selections—it gave conference and started to hold initiations in the presence, every time, of a large audience[6] Lodge Nr.1 was thus created in Blois in 1895, but, permanently excluded in 1902, this lodge re-awoke only recently.[6] Its Mother Lodge Le Droit Humain now took over the position of Lodge Nr.1 whilst splitting up again in Paris to form Lodge Nr.4. Three lodges were founded in the provinces:[6]
Lodge Nr.1 in Lyon (1896)
Lodge Nr.3 in Rouen (1896) and
Lodge Nr.5 in Havre (1902)
The first News-sheet of co-masonry appeared in January, 1895.[6] It contained an article by Georges Martin enunciating the principles of LE DROIT HUMAIN as well as various rules regarding to membership lists, subscription fees (11 francs for an initiation, and 20–31 francs for an increase of wages), the price of diplomas (5 francs), the annual subscription rate (18 francs) and the price of subscription to the Newssheet (2 francs per year).[6]
As a base for comparison: 1871 the average wage of a worker was 4.98 frcs. A woman earned half of this sum. In 1882 a clerk at a Ministry earned 1500–2000 frcs per year. One week's stay in Paris in 1900 for the International Exhibition cost about 100 frcs.[6] The co-masonic News-Sheets appeared regularly until 1914—their publication was interrupted during the war, but some editions were published in French in America.[6]

Annie Besant wearing 33° Masonic regalia.

The Eastern Federation


Several prominent members of the Theosophical Society joined Co-Freemasonry, including Annie Besant, George Arundale, Charles W. Leadbeater and C. Jinarajadasa. Henceforth, wherever they took Theosophy, they also introduced Co-Freemasonry.
The Order of Universal Co-Freemasonry in Great Britain and the British Dependencies was founded by Annie Besant and officers of the Supreme Council of the French Maçonnerie Mixte (known today as The International Order of Freemasonry for Men and Women, Le Droit Humain) on September 26, 1902, with the consecration of Lodge Human Duty No. 6 in London. Besant remained head of the Order until her death in 1933. The English working, influenced by the Theosophy of its leading members, restored certain Masonic practices not required in the French working, notably that its members hold a belief in God or a Supreme Being. The permission received from France to reinstate this in the English workings is known as the "Annie Besant Concord", and in 1904 a new English ritual was printed, which firmly established this requirement as central to the work. The revised ritual was called the "Dharma Ritual", also known as the "Besant-Leadbeater" and more recently as the "Lauderdale" working. The Dharma Ritual also attempted to restore prominence to esoteric and mystical aspects that its Theosophically-minded authors felt were the heart of Freemasonry, so that it became foremostly a spiritual organisation; Co-Freemasonry of this Order was therefore sometimes called "Occult Freemasonry". Leadbeater served of the presiding officer of the Sydney Lodge #404 and various lodges and chapters of the York and Scottish Rites.[7]




  2. Structure of the Order [1]

  3. Huffmire, Casey R. Women and Freemasonry in France and Germany Archived 2006-08-24 at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved 2006-10-24.

  4. Mackey, A. C. Adoniramite Freemasonry, Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and its Kindred Sciences[permanent dead link]. Retrieved 2006-07-13

  5. Mackey, A. C. Eastern Star, Order of the, Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and its Kindred Sciences Archived 2006-08-19 at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved 2006-07-13

  6. An Out line on the Origins and Development of The Order of International Co-Freemasonry LE DROIT HUMAIN, 1993, Compose at imprime sur les presses mukanda a Sart Bernard (Belgique), p.11.


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