Labour History Review

Rebelles Without a Cause? Images of Masonic Women in France

Labour History Review (2006), 71, (1), 43–56.

Abstract

Images of women in French Masonry closely resemble those of men in the movement from the eighteenth century onwards and for many of the same reasons: masonic secrecy leaves non-masons to suspect the worst, especially with state and church opposition to the craft from its inception in France. This suspicion intensified because of the revolutionary and Napoleonic disruption attributed to an apparent masonic conspiracy identified by conservative commentators. When the French Third Republic (1870–1940) embraced Masonry's anticlericalism, the new regime's political leaders embraced as well its republican tendencies, to the exclusion, however, of its women. Images of the New Woman captured well the French fin-de-siècle's hostility to women in Masonry. From George Sand to Clothilde Bersone, literary accounts of mostly para-masonic activity portray women engaged in demonic, sacrilegious, and occult practices dangerous to social and political stability. This perception became particularly problematic in the hands of unscrupulous journalists, political partisans, and literary hacks like Léo Taxil and Roger Lambelin. In the absence of better informed and more favorable views, masonic women were thus seen as rebellious without any ostensible cause.

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Author details

Allen, James Smith