Australia: Edith Pringle challenges the male-only Freemasons Print E-mail

One of the boys

May 22, 2005

A MOTHER of seven - and former political candidate - wants to be the first woman in Australia to join the male-only Freemasons organisation.

Edith Pringle, 46, might not have long to wait after being nominated for membership of the centuries-old society which still has an aura of mystery and exclusivity about it.
"I thought it was just a dusty old boys' social club but they're more than that," said Ms Pringle, political activist, who was nominated last month at the Lodge that meets at Payneham's Masonic Hall.

"It's a challenge to Freemasons to apply tests of morality, equality and justice to their membership rules."

The nomination came after Ms Pringle had waited in the kitchen for an hour - unable to enter the Lodge Room until normal business was completed.

The are no women members in Freemasonry in Australia.

The Junior Warden of Payneham's Lodge 216, David Varley, said the nomination of Ms Pringle came after extended debate about the rationale of being an all-male organisation.

"Freemasonry teaches us to think for ourselves, so I began thinking about why we exclude women," Mr Varley said.

"I opened up debate on the subject and we decided to get a woman to talk to us about it - we chose Edith.

"At the end of her speech and more debate, one of the members nominated her.

"She was seconded and now she's looking for a Lodge to initiate her."

The nomination came from Ken Brindal, 80, father of Unley Liberal MP Mark Brindal.

Ms Pringle said the nomination came as a surprise.

"I was approached by the Freemasons to present a research paper on the topic of exclusion of women," she said.

"Because women are not allowed into the Lodge Room during meetings, I had to wait in the kitchen for an hour.

"At the end of my speech I challenged the members as to who among them would nominate me for full membership.

"Ken Brindal nominated, I was seconded and now all I need is a Lodge to initiate me," she said.

That next step may prove difficult unless the peak body, the Grand Lodge of England, overseen by the Duke of Kent, changes its rules about recognition of Lodges.

"Under the current rules, any Lodge that initiates me will lose intervisitation rights with other Lodges," Ms Pringle said.

Mr Varley believes the time is not far away when women will be equal partners in the movement.

The most recent full and equal admission of a woman into the Masons was in 1892 when feminist writer Maria Deraismes was initiated into the Lodge Libres Penseurs in France.

For Ms Pringle there's one small misgiving.

"I wondered why after years of fighting for women's rights, I was now fighting for the right to wear an apron," she said.

Once a member of the ALP women's executive, Ms Pringle has also stood for preselection with the Australian Democrats and ran as an independent in the 2002 state election.