The Order of the Eastern Star is the world’s largest fraternal organization to which men and women may both belong. There are over one million members of the order worldwide who fall under the governance of the General Grand Chapter.
While it has been said that The Order of the Eastern Star is Freemasonry for women, it should not be confused with co-masonry a form of clandestine or fringe Masonry not recognized by Grand Lodges in North America. This being said the O.E.S. is believed to have had its roots in France as early as 1703 – a decade before the inception of the first Grand Lodge of London in 1717, when androgynous degrees were believed to be conferred. The true start of the order, as it is known today, would come a century and a half later on American soil.
Dr. Robert Morris, the poet laureate of Freemasonry founded the Order of the Eastern Star in 1850. Morris a well known and respected Masonic author who traveled far and wide felt that it was a shame that all the good in Masonry was confined to men alone. He knew that the ancient landmarks of the order did not permit women from joining the fraternity and thus harbored his ideas for many years without action. It was in 1850, while confined to his home following an accident that Morris wrote the initiatory Degrees of the order. He first initiated his wife and daughters and expanded to some neighbor ladies. The signs and modes of recognition given to them, he freely communicated to Masons so that they would be able to recognize the newly initiated women.
Robert McCoy who came onboard in 1860 and wrote the rituals of the order as they exist today. These degrees centered on the lives of five biblical heroines, Adah, Ruth, Esther, Martha, and Electa with each one representing one of the five principles of the order, which are Fidelity, Constancy, Loyalty, Faith and Love.
The General Grand Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star was established in 1876 and is the governing body of the fraternal organization.
Like its brother Freemasonry, The Order of the Eastern Star is open to people of all faiths. While non-sectarian and non-denominational the organization does not permit atheists among its ranks. Although religious in nature, The O.E.S. is neither a religion nor a substitute for one.
As a Fraternal and benevolent organization the Order of the Eastern Star is involved in several charity projects adding to the nearly 1.5 million dollars given daily by Masonic charities. Some of the projects the O.E.S. are involved in are as follows:
Youth Projects: Eastern Star gives support to young people who are members of Rainbow for Girls, Job’s Daughters, and the Order of DeMolay These fine young people who are training themselves to be leaders are likely prospects to become valued Eastern Stars or Masons. The Order of the Eastern Star and the Masonic fraternity are highly rewarded by their support of and interest in these youth organizations.
ESTARL:(ESTARL (Eastern Star Training Awards for Religious Leadership), is a scholarship fund for those who are going to school for the purpose of religious training. Each state administers its own ESTARL program. Those wishing to apply for an ESTARL Scholarship should contact the Grand Secretary of the state or province in which they reside.
Eastern Star Homes: Many Grand Jurisdictions have homes for their senior members. These homes range in function from full-fledged “retirement homes” to organizations that provide services to those who are in need.
Masons and women who have specific Masonic affiliations are permitted to join the O.E.S. These specific affiliations include:
- the wives
- legally adopted daughters
- half sisters
- great granddaughters
- great nieces
and daughters of sisters or brothers of affiliated Master Masons in good standing, or if deceased were in good standing at the time of their death; as well as members – either active for three(3) years or majority – of the International Order of the Rainbow for Girls or of the International Order of Job’s daughters, each of whom having attained to at least the age of eighteen (18) years, are eligible to membership in the Order of the Eastern Star.