Interview with a Mason’s Lady #1

So, there’s some a big post on the back burner, I need to mull it over a bit, and think about how I want to word it. In the mean time, I wanted to share with you a project I started a while ago- interviewing other Mason’s Ladies. If you or someone you know would like to share your Masonic story. please send me an email at themasonslady@gmail.com!

(Identifying information has been removed.)

Name: J. B.

Age: 36

Current Location: Seoul, South Korea

How were you made aware of Masonry? Do you come from a Masonic family?

I come from a very masonic family, more so on my mother’s side.  My great grandparents were in masons, shrine, and Daughters of the Nile (great grandmother). My Grandfather and great uncle were also Shriners (It was an exciting year when my great uncle because imperial potentate of the Shrine. I still remember attending the Shrine circus and seeing my Great uncle as ringmaster during his year as potentate in British Columbia).  My uncles and my cousin also became masons when my great uncle became imperial potentate (gotta support). My father was also a mason and would have become a shriner had he not passed away at an untimely age due to cancer. My Grandmother is a past queen of Daughters of the Nile and a Past Matron of the Order of the Eastern Star (I had the pleasure of using her gavel when I was honored queen in 1993 and am using is once again as Worthy Matron). My Mother was a member of the Order of the Eastern Star and Amaranth (unfortunately she quit when I moved to Korea as she was tired of dealing with the gossipy cattiness that inevitably follows an organization filled with a plethora of personalities).

When I turned 11 years old (Job’s Daughters range in age from 11-20), my Grandmother and Grandfather took me to an open installation of Bethel #31.  This was my very first time ever seeing anything masonic.  During the reception, I had my grandmother on one side of me and my grandfather on the other and they asked, “So what do you think? Would you like to join?” Of course, the immediate answer would be yes.  From that point on, I have been a diligent member of masonic affiliated organizations.

What is your perception of the current state of Masonry where you live? That is, how to you, personally view the Masonry around you? If applicable, how has it changed over the years, or from location to location?

I am lucky enough to be associated with both PHA and non-PHA masonic groups here on the Korean peninsula. For non-PHA lodges, there are two grand lodges represented: Grand Lodge of Scotland and the Grand Lodge of the Philippines. They have no female organizations available here at this time.  For PHA the two Grand Lodges that I know of represented are: The Grand Lodge of Washington and Jurisdiction and the Grand Lodge of Oklahoma. The PHA groups here are mainly military based and the non-PHA groups are mainly expat. I can clearly see that there is a small rift between the PHA and non-PHA groups. This is slowly changing. This year we have attended (Boyfriend and I are PHA Eastern Stars) the open installation of Macarthur Lodge of the Grand Lodge of the Philipines and have also attended various barbeques and other functions with Lodge Han Yang of the Grand Lodge of Scotland.  Unfortunately, the Grand Lodge of Scotland and the Grand Lodge of Washington PHA do not currently recognize each other making it more difficult to interact on a more official level.  Brothers of the lodges are currently working toward rectifying this situation.

As an expat member of a mainly military Chapter of the OES, it is very different for me to me involved in such a high turnover due to people leaving to a new location every couple of years for their career.  Even with this, we continue to thrive and have a strong sister and brotherhood.

As a mason’s “wife” of a non-PHA lodge, it feels very much the same as it did in Vancouver.  I feel very involved and have gained great friendships with many of the men and their wives.  I am also aware that I feel more of a connection with the brothers than some of the other wives due to my masonic upbringing.  I firmly believe that wives being involved in masonic affiliated organizations can bring very greater understanding and closer relationships.

Overall, I would say that whether as a child or an adult, whether PHA or non-PHA, whether in North America or Korea, the fundamental values remain the same: strive to be a better person and perform acts of charity. It is an honor and privilege to say that I am a part of masonic organizations.

 What is your favorite aspect of Masonry? Your least favorite?

Favorite: The camaraderie, the ritual work, and the virtues for which we all strive to embody.

Least favorite: the gossipy catty nature of some members within the order.

How has Masonry changed your relationships (SO, family, friends) for the better? Has it changed it for the worse as well?

I feel as though I have answered this within all my other answers.  Overall it has always changed it for the better. I have always been a part of masonic organizations and don’t know what my life would be like otherwise. I would certainly say however, that I would not change a thing.

If you could change one thing about your lodge/chapter, what would it be? Why?

Selfishly, I would wish that my sisters and brothers could remain in-country (Korea) longer. Our ritual work suffers due to the high turn-over rate however, the true reason is that I miss them very much when they are gone.

Were you involved in Job’s Daughters or Rainbow growing up? Looking back on those programs, do you have a positive, or negative view on them? How did they impact your life today?

I was a Job’s Daughter growing up and had a very positive experience.  I was very unpopular in school due to my, shall we say… eccentricities – I was weird and embraced it. I never cared because I had an amazing group of friends in both Job’s Daughters and DeMolay of whom many I am still friends with today. Jobies were my true friends and where I felt at home.  I know that many people may have had negative experiences due to the, as I have said before, gossipy and catty nature of people – especially girls.  I however, feel very thankful for my upbringing.  Jobies taught me not only decorum and virtues to strive toward, but also accounting, Robert’s Rules of Order, organization skills, public speaking, and most importantly how to lead in a diplomatic community.  Today, I still have a large community of friends that stemmed from my time in Jobies. More importantly, my closest friends (even though I only see them once a year or every other year) were also those I grew up with within masonic groups. My boyfriend (of whom I have been living with now for 6 years) was a DeMolay from Golden Ears Chapter. We were buddies for 15 years before we ever started dating.

 

My Boyfriend, is the current (now past) Right Worshipful Master of Lodge Han Yang #1048 of the Grand Lodge of Scotland located in Seoul South Korea and he is also a member of Lodge Southern Cross #44 of the Grand Lodge of British Columbia. As a masonic “wife,” I have had the privilege of meeting many amazing men and women here in Korea and wouldn’t change it for a minute. One of the nice things about dating a mason is that I know that the men he is hanging out with have certain values and morals they strive to achieve and therefore I always feel comfortable knowing he’s out having fun with them.  More often than not I am invited along for the fun.  I realize that there are many masonic wives that do not have the same view as me and worry when their husband comes home late into the night. I think that my view is different because I am very aware of and involved in masonic organizations and therefore have a better understanding of what they are doing any why.  I firmly believe that the wives with issues would feel much more secure if they were also involved in masonic affiliated orders.

If you have children, do you encourage them to be involved in Masonic youth programs, why or why not? If you do not have children, will/would you?

I absolutely would encourage my children to be involved in Masonic youth programs. I think my reasoning is pretty clear based on my own experiences.  Over and above the feeling of belonging and the wonderful skills I learned, I was also kept too busy to get into any trouble.  I never got interested in drugs, teen pregnancies, stealing cars or anything else that bored teenagers may decide is a good idea.  My mother knew all of my friends’ parents and never really had to worry.  I would go out late on many weekends to dances and such, however we always had 1 parent to every 5 girls.  Jobies also provided a community of parents for my mother to get involved in.

 Have you ever experienced misogyny from Masons? How did you react, and if in public, how did the others around you react? Did this incidence(s) change the way that you view Masonry? Why or why not?

I certainly have experienced misogyny from Masons (more so since I’ve been in OES in Korea).  There are a few members of lodges here who feel that women have no place within any masonic affiliated groups.  I usually don’t have any time to react before another Mason will break in information regarding female Masons in France etc. etc. Though it saddens my heart to meet men that feel negatively toward women having any involvement, I am quickly lifted by the much larger number of men –usually more educated on masonic knowledge – who come to the rescue and put them in their place. It hasn’t really changed my view on masonry at all.  Confucius said, “To study without thinking is futile, to think without studying is dangerous.” I know that in every walk of life there will be people who “think without studying” and it is their own downfall, not mine.

How do you feel about the “men only” rule? Do you agree or disagree with this rule? Why or why not?

I can understand why many women feel they should not be prevented from joining a lodge just because of their gender, however I disagree. Girls enjoy having their “girl’s night out” where they go out with just the ladies leaving their husbands and boyfriends to do as they will. Men also enjoy this experience. Men should be able to have the freedom to be a part of an organization that is only men.  Women should also have this same freedom.  Masonic affiliated organizations allow for this via Daughters of the Nile, Ladies of the White Shrine, Job’s Daughters, Rainbow Girls, and I’m sure many more that I can’t think of at the moment. They also have organizations that both men and women can enjoy together such as OES, Amaranth, Heroines of Jericho (PHA), and much more.  Masonic groups allow for men to have their men time, women to have their women time, and for men and women to come together.  On top of this, women are also very involved in many of the open events the lodges have and husbands have the same opportunity within the women’s organizations. I also have absolutely no problem completely female lodges as they have in England (to me this is just another masonic affiliated group). I not agree with the idea of forcing all masonic affiliated groups to be co-ed. There is a completely different dynamic within the co-ed groups and if lodges were forced to be co-ed, there would be no place for the men to have their “men time.”

What advice would you give to a new member or a new or fellow Mason’s lady? What questions would you want to ask them?

My advice would be to be prepared for the gossipy catty nature of human beings and to never let it bring you down.  Do your best to strive to uphold the virtues within your obligation and teach others to do the same.  If you model it, they will follow.  Remember all the good that comes out of these organizations and embrace the life-long friendships that will most certainly emerge. These organizations aren’t just about your chapter, court, etc, but about a connection world-wide.  People will move away, you will meet visitors from all over, and you will have the opportunity to remain in touch for a lifetime. Remember the charity work that embodies the order and that your contribution is important, but so is your humbleness. It doesn’t matter how many people know that you work hard, what matters is that you do indeed work hard.

I guess the question I would ask a new member is, “are you prepared to do your best to follow and embody the virtues and morality found within your obligation? Are you prepared to make this a life-long commitment through the good and the bad knowing that the good will always inevitably be greater?” I would also offer a welcoming place for any sister or brother to visit in Korea.

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