Page 14 - MFM MARCH 2015
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Montana Freemasonry & Feminism

                        Reid Gardiner (3)

  Most people do not connect the fraternity of             career are well documented. In addition, all women
Freemasons with women’s rights, however several well-      were denied the right to vote. In the American west,
known Freemasons in Montana history contributed            these pioneering women had more opportunities to
to women’s rights through their understanding of           become independent and having to cope with adverse
equality and justice. To fully understand the magnitude    situations. In Montana, the pioneer women along
of this, one needs to also look at the basic tenets of     with men had to work together to overcome harsh
Freemasonry: Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth and          conditions and forge a living.
the four cardinal virtues of: Fortitude, Prudence,
Temperance and Justice. Yet another example of how           For Montanans, the western or frontier conditions,
Masonic teaching and civil responsibility work together    lack of social activities, quick gains and loss of
for the greater good of society can also be seen in the    fortunes caused additional difficulties. In many cases
Creed of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry: Human           this afforded women the ability to own property
progress is our cause, liberty of thought our supreme      and own or run businesses. As more women arrived
wish, freedom of conscience our mission, and the           in mining camps and fledgling towns, they worked
guarantee of equal rights to all people everywhere our     closer with men or their husbands on farms and
ultimate goal.                                             developing a business. These reasons and others,
                                                           seem to have had a strong impact upon the women’s
  Wherever true Freemasonry flourishes, there the          rights movement. Certainly, women faced prejudice
light of the Sun of Liberty shines in all its glory and    and social and legal barriers. Nonetheless women in
refulgence, and the people among whom it lives and         the West and elsewhere had to wait until the twentieth
moves and has its being are enlightened, educated,         century they could vote, hold elective office and even
free and intelligent, independent in character, patriotic  serve on juries. Colorado was the first state to adopt
to the core, and thoroughly imbued with the principle      an amendment granting women the right to vote.
and sentiment of “ Resistance to Tyrants is Obedience      Utah and Idaho followed suit in 1896, Washington
to God.” In its temples they breathe the pure ozone        State in 1910, California in 1911, Oregon, Kansas, and
of its spirit, perfumed with the incense of Liberty,       Arizona in 1912, Alaska and Illinois in 1913, Montana
Equality, and Fraternity: Liberty regulated by wise        and Nevada in 1914, New York in 1917; Michigan,
laws, Equality upon the level of human rights, and         South Dakota, and Oklahoma in 1918.
Fraternity cemented by brotherly love, ever ready           Paula Petrik describes the success of woman’s
to extend relief and to receive and impart the truth.      suffrage in Montana as a combination of conservative
Where Freemasonry does not flourish, tyranny mental        ideals reinforced by Western experience. The insurgent
and corporeal, ignorance, superstition, fanaticism and     politics boosted women’s political aspirations and
cruelty prevail. 1                                         provided an environment receptive to expanded
                                                           political rights and participation. At the same time,
  In the 1800s, women in many places were not              suffragists played to nativist and racist fears and
afforded equality and often were treated as second-        promised a sure corrective to the growing number
class citizens. To a great extent women were expected      of foreign-born voters. Western women utilized their
to restrict themselves to matters of the home and the      feminine role to promote their participation in the
family. The examples demonstrating how women were          public world. 2
discouraged obtaining higher education or pursuing a

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