The Value of the Eastern Star
As a Factor in Giving Women
A Better Understanding of Business Affairs
and Especially Those Relating to Legislative Matters
Mary A. Flint
1893 — World’s Congress of Representative Women, Chicago IL
The primary object of the Order of the Eastern Star, as expounded by its founder, Robert Morris, was “to associate in one common bond the worthy wives, widows, daughters, and sisters of Freemasons so as to make their adoptive privileges available for all the purposes contemplated in Masonry; to secure to them the advantages of their claim in a moral, social, and charitable point of view, and from them learn the performance of corresponding duties.”
It can hardly be possible that those who laid the cornerstone and began the erection of this superstructure that has attained such fair and lofty proportions could have had any adequate conception of the work they inaugurated.
It is not only fulfilling its mission from a moral, social, and charitable point of view, — and much might be said, and probably will be well said, to show its growth and influence in all directions, — but as an educator of women the order is entitled to “high rank.” Especially to women has it been a revelation of power and ability, developing and bringing into use talents hitherto unsuspected, by whose exercise in its ceremonial observances and business transactions confidence has been gained that has made it possible for many women to fill positions of trust and to obtain employment.
This brings us to the special topic of this paper, the value of the Eastern Star as a factor in giving women a better understanding of business affairs, and especially those relating to legislative matters. To a thoughtful mind the first steps toward admission to the order are fraught with interest, which is increased by each succeeding stage of the initiating ceremonies.
Lessons of fidelity, constancy, loyalty, purity, uprightness of character, hope and charity are taught by a symbolism of exceeding beauty and fitness, while the spirit of the fraternity shines like a silver thread through all the routine work.
To give all these lessons their full meaning requires careful study, exactness, and promptitude, combined with dignity of demeanor on the part of the officers to whom they are assigned, that the impression made upon the candidate may be of permanent value; hence the regular routine of these duties becomes of value as an educational factor, giving by frequent repetition confidence in one’s ability to speak acceptably, and with proper appreciation of the beauties contained in the different lectures, as well as being a means of strengthening the memory.
With membership gained, and fraternal relations established, a knowledge of business details becomes necessary, which is acquired only by observation and experience, as from time to time different subjects are presented for immediate consideration or referred to committees, to be examined, reported upon, and discussed before final action is taken.
To do all these things correctly and intelligently involves careful attention to details; the faculty of comparing and condensing facts so as to present them in concise and suitable language; and a knowledge of business forms and established rules and regulations. It is important also to know how to listen intelligently to propositions presented for discussion, to know whether they are properly stated by the presiding officer, and what effect their approval or rejection will have on existing conditions, to discuss them with fairness and impartiality, putting aside personal preferences, and exercising a charitable consideration for the prejudices and preferences of others; conceding matters of small importance, but never losing sight of the principle involved, and allowing no deviation from the straight and narrow path of justice and right through any sophistries, however plausible or ingeniously presented; to keep constantly in view the greatest good of all concerned, and to accept the will of the majority with cheerfulness even though the result be contrary to preconceived ideas.
Familiarity with all the details of business will prove of inestimable value, and a careful study of them, with frequent practice, will be full of interest and afford an excellent opportunity for women to qualify themselves for legislative positions by teaching them not only how to make laws, but to obey them strictly.
The various official positions of the order necessitate special preparation to render them available for the highest development of one’s capacities, as step by step they lead to higher planes of usefulness.
To safely guard the portals, that no one enter unless entitled to do so, and to permit no interruption to ceremonial observances, requires watchfulness, discretion, tact, readiness of resource in preventing anything that might lead to unpleasant complications, and also implicit obedience to constituted authority; important qualities in any sphere of action.
So much depends upon the secretary of any organization, that to perform correctly the duties of that position is no easy task, and careful attention needs to be given to its requirements by those who would fill it intelligently and creditably.
It is the duty of a secretary to make a proper record of the proceedings of each meeting, to conduct the correspondence, to receive all the moneys and give credit for them.
Quickness of observation and readiness of understanding, clearness of perception as to what is proper to be recorded, precision of language and accuracy of statement, facility of expression, suavity of manner, good penmanship, neatness and orderliness, unquestioned integrity, obedience to the requests of the presiding officer, all these and more which might be enumerated are necessary qualifications of a secretary who seeks to obtain the highest standard of excellence.
“The proper preservation of our funds demands honesty and carefulness on the part of our treasurer.” What is true of one organization applies with equal force to all.
The many instances constantly occurring of misappropriation of funds, dishonesty in every form, and criminal carelessness on the part of those to whom have been intrusted moneys belonging to societies and private individuals, come to emphasize with ever-increasing distrustfulness the necessity of the strictest fidelity and the most undeviating integrity in the discharge of every important trust; and there is no better school in which to learn this lesson than in our order, founded upon the sublime principles of truth and fidelity to all moral obligations.
Without further reference to those in official stations who have to do with the initiatory ceremonies, I will refer briefly to the duties of a presiding officer and the requisites for one who is ambitious to become proficient in the work.
A dignified, courteous demeanor, close attention to details, quickness of apprehension in grasping the true meaning of questions brought forward for consideration and the strictest impartiality in deciding them; a thorough knowledge of parliamentary rules and the laws governing the organization, and firmness in exacting obedience to them, and maintaining discipline while carefully refraining from an infringement of others’ rights; a subordination of personal consideration to the general welfare; all these are component parts of a harmonious whole, demanding serious thought and study on the part of those who aspire to the honor of presiding officer over any assembly.
In the Order of the Eastern Star the duty of presiding devolves upon the sisters. The matron is brought into close relations with the associate head of the chapter, who, as a Master Mason, should be well informed on all points.
Though not the chief officer, he is required to be conversant with the laws of the order; and as the constitutional adviser of the worthy matron shares with her the cares and responsibilities of the position.
By temperament and from lack of previous training in public matters women are probably more sensitive to criticism and censure than men, whose experience in the management of public affairs has been so much greater, but honest criticism assists rather than hinders the development of qualities necessary for success, and censure, if undeserved, can be ignored; but a wise discrimination is often needed to determine how much of either is best adapted to serve the purpose of improvement. Here also she may derive great benefit from the safe counsel and thoughtful consideration of her associate officer, so that with mutual helpfulness and harmony of interest, each conscientiously striving for the best results, they may successfully administer the trust committed to their charge.
In conclusion, a well-conducted chapter of the Eastern Star is a school wherein an earnest woman of ordinary ability may acquire a sufficient knowledge of business to enable her not only to fill positions in which she may earn a livelihood merely, but also to manage public trusts connected with the government of the State, in which may be greater responsibilities and increased remuneration.
If in addition to the training here received there is a broad underlying foundation of previous mental discipline, combined with capacity of a high order, to what may she not aspire?
If in the providence of God, by future legal enactment, women shall stand shoulder to shoulder with men in matters political, as they do now socially and intellectually, the influence of this factor in education and experience will be entitled to recognition.
Source: The World’s Congress of Representative Women, Vol. 2, Ed. May Eliza Wright Sewall (Chicago: Rand and McNally), 1894, pp. 1-90.