The Order of the Eastern Star is an adoptive rite of Freemasonry with teachings based on the Bible and objectives that are charitable and benevolent. The founder of OES was Dr. Robert Morris, a lawyer and educator from Boston, Massachusetts, who was a Master Mason and Past Grand Master of Kentucky. Dr. Morris intended his creation to become a female branch of Freemasonry, but he failed to overcome the great opposition this idea engendered. After his first published ritual in 1849-50, he became associated with Robert Macoy who wrote and published a ritual based on Morris' in 1867. The first Grand Chapter was organized in Michigan in the same year. (There is evidence for an organization of the same name founded variously in 1788 or 1793, but this group was defunct by 1867.) Subordinate (local) chapters operate under charter from state level grand chapters which are responsible to the General Grand Chapter at the International Eastern Star temple in Washington, D.C.
Members must be eighteen years or older and either Master Masons in good standing or properly related to a Master Mason in good standing. The latter category includes wives; widows; sisters; daughters; mothers; granddaughters; step-mothers; step daughters; step-sisters; and half-sisters. In 1994 this was expanded to include nieces, daughters-in- law, and grandmothers.
Each chapter has eighteen officers, some elected and others appointed. Two offices are specifically male (Patron and Associate Patron) while nine offices are specifically female (including Matron and Associate Matron). While the Worthy Matron is considered to be the presiding officer of the chapter, the degrees cannot be conferred without a presiding brother in good standing (hence the Patron and Associate Patron).
Each chapter retains the right to decide who shall be a member of the organization. Election to the degrees must be unanimous, without debate, and secret. The successful candidate must profess a belief in a Supreme Being and is initiated in five degrees, which are conferred in one ceremony. (When Eastern Star was created, it was intended to be the first of a three degree series. The second and third degrees were Queen of the South and the Order of the Amaranth, respectively.)
Interestingly enough, OES requires only the belief in a Supreme Being even though the degrees are based in both the Old and New Testaments. While non-Christians are not specifically barred from membership, it would seem to be difficult to be other than Christian and belong to the Order.
The above article was edited from Dave Stites Masonic FAQ page.
Researched, compiled and written by
Past Grand Worthy Matron Jessie Mae Ayers
Past Grand Worthy Matron Jessie M. Ayers is a member of Miriam Chapter No. 4,
Order of the Eastern Star, Georgiana Thomas Grand Chapter, Jurisdiction of the
District of Columbia. She served as Grand Worthy matron in 1989 as was Grand
Historian of the Georgiana Thomas Grand Chapter from 1971-1991.
On August 10, 1874, Thornton Andrew Jackson received the several degrees of the Rite of Adoption of the Order of the Eastern Star from Brother C.B. Case, a Deputy and agent of Illustrious Robert Macoy 33, Supreme Patron of the Rite of Adoption of the World. In addition, Thornton Jackson also received a letter from Bro. C. B. Case granting him the authority to establish chapters of the Eastern Star among eligible black women. In obedience to the authority granted by William H. Myers, Grand Master, Union Grand Lodge, Jurisdiction of the District of Columbia, Bro. Jackson established the first Eastern Star Chapter among black women in the United States.
On December 1, 1874, Queen Esther Chapter No. 1, Order of the Eastern Star, was established at 708 - O Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. in the home of Mrs. Georgiana Thomas. The first Worthy Matron was Sister Martha Welch and the first Worthy Patron was Bro. Thornton A. Jackson.
In December 1874, Grand Master William H. Myers and Deputy Grand Master William A. Tallaferro, Union Grand Lodge, Jurisdiction of the District of Columbia, were invited to receive the androgynous degrees. They both accepted, thus further cementing the ties that bind the Masonic Family together. Upon the occasion of Grand Master Myers' initiation into the Adoptive Rite, he made the following statement to the sisters of Queen Esther Chapter No. 1 - extolling them to greatness:
"May the dove of peace hover over you. May the All Seeing Eye, whom the Sun, Moon and Stars obey ever watch over you. May he keep and protect you in your every effort to promote interest in the general good of this chapter".
On April 28, 1890, Queen of Sheba Chapter No. 3 and on October 20, 1890, Gethsemane Chapter No. 4, Order of the Eastern Star, were established by Thornton A. Jackson within the Jurisdiction of the District of Columbia. He was also
instrumental and helped to establish one (1) chapter in Alexandria, Virginia, three (3) chapters in Maryland and three chapters in Pennsylvania. In each instance when a chapter was organized and established, it was adopted by a regularly constituted masonic Lodge. Thus, Brother Jackson was able to bring about more unity within the Masonic Family.
During the year 1875, Pythagoras Lodge No. 9 presented the officers of Queen Esther Chapter No. 1 with their first badges which were known as Rosettes. This presentation was made by Worthy Patron Thornton A. Jackson who wished the chapter success and prosperity in the work upon which they were entering. He admonished the officers to wear the Rosettes with dignity keeping ever before them the memory of the five (5) Heronines: Adah, Ruth, Esther, Martha and Electa. In closing, Brother Jackson stated "To you Queen Esther and Associates, the representatives of the rays of the Beautiful Star and from whom comes the most charming, the most prophetic and the most instructive lessons of the Old and New Testaments. May you always throw an air of beauty and solemnity around all that you bring thousands to worship Him." This has been our charge as bona fide members of the Order of Eastern Stars from 1875 to this present moment in time.
And so it was one hundred years after the founding of the first Black Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons, Queen Esther Chapter No. 1, Order of the Eastern Star, was officially instituted in the City of Washington in the District of Columbia.
The above article was edited from the Prince Hall Masonic Directory, 4th Edition 1992. Conference of Grand Masters, Prince Hall Masons.