A Civil Society


A Civil Society

The Public Space of Freemason Women in France, 1744–1944

James Smith Allen

374 pages
2 photographs, 8 illustrations, 1 map, 3 graphs, 1 table, 8 appendixes, index


May 2022


$70.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

A Civil Society explores the struggle to initiate women as full participants in the masonic brotherhood that shared in the rise of France’s civil society and its “civic morality” on behalf of women’s rights. As a vital component of the third sector during France’s modernization, freemasonry empowered women in complex social networks, contributing to a more liberal republic, a more open society, and a more engaged public culture.

James Smith Allen shows that although women initially met with stiff resistance, their induction into the brotherhood was a significant step in the development of French civil society, including the promotion of women’s rights in the late nineteenth century. Pulling together the many gendered facets of masonry, Allen draws from periodicals, memoirs, and archival material to account for the rise of women within the masonic brotherhood in the context of rapid historical change.  Thanks to women’s social networks and their attendant social capital, masonry came to play a leading role in French civil society and the rethinking of gender relations in the public sphere.

Author Bio

James Smith Allen is professor emeritus of history at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He is the author of several books, including Poignant Relations: Three Modern French Women and In The Public Eye: A History of Reading in Modern France, 1800–1940, and the editor of In the Solitude of My Soul: The Diary of Geneviève Bréton, 1867–1871.


“James Smith Allen presents readers with an engaging, kaleidoscopic account of the uphill and contentious struggle to include select women as full participants in the arcane brotherhood of French freemasonry.”—Karen Offen, author of Debating the Woman Question in the French Third Republic, 1870–1920

A Civil Society is important because it connects the activism and writing of major figures in French women’s history with masonic networks and impulses. It accomplishes all of this by providing copious evidence presented with clarity.”—Bonnie G. Smith, author of Women in World History: 1450 to the Present

“In this ambitious new study, James Smith Allen seeks to understand how masonic sisters and their fellow travelers contributed to a more liberal republic and open society and engaged civic culture in the Old Regime and modern France. A Civil Society is a welcome addition to all those interested in the history of sociability, progressive politics, and civil society.”—Kenneth Loiselle, author of Brotherly Love: Freemasonry and Male Friendship in Enlightenment France 

Table of Contents

List of Figures 
List of Illustrations  
List of Abbreviations 
List of French Masonic Orders / Obediences 
Introduction:  French Women in Public Space 
     Freemasonry Writ Large  
     How Else Civil Society – and Freemason Women – Matter  
 Chapter 1:  Masonry’s Gendered Variations Before and After 1789 
     The Eighteenth Century’s Mixed Orders and Adoption Lodges  
     Freemason Women’s Social Networks in the Old Regime  
     Revolution: The Communities of Freemason Women Transformed 
Chapter 2:  The Craft’s Long March to Mixed Orders, 1799-1901 
      Variations on Mixed Orders and Adoption Lodges 
      Freemason Women’s Changing Social Networks in the Nineteenth Century 
      Revolution(s): The Successive Redefinitions of Women’s Masonic Communities 
 Chapter 3:  Women’s Freemasonry and the Women’s Movement, 1901-1944 
      Renewed Mixed Orders and Adoption Lodges at Home and Abroad 
      The Feminist Networks of Freemason Women 
      The Communities of Freemason Women During Two World Wars 
 Chapter 4:  Contestatory Imaginaries: The Representations of Freemason Women 
      Serafina, Comtesse de Cagliostro  
      Pamina and Balkis 
     Consuelo, Comtesse de Rudolstadt  
     Diana Vaughan and Others 
Conclusion:  Civic Morality in Modern France 
     Between Theory and History  
     A Social Conscience 

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