The Order of the Eastern Star is the largest fraternal organization in the world to which both men and women may belong. Worldwide, there are over 500,000 members. The organization was created in the United States in the early nineteenth century to allow women to join with their Masonic relatives in promoting the values and charitable purposes that are such an important part of the Masonic fraternity. While the Order of the Eastern Star has evolved over the centuries, it still remains rooted in its charitable endeavours and fraternal fellowship.
Who May Join?
The organization is open to women, 18 years of age or older, who are related to Masons in good standing. Male members of the order must be Masons in good standing. In addition, women who were or are active members of the International Order of Job's Daughters or the International Order of the Rainbow for Girls (youth organizations sponsored by Masonic Lodges and Eastern Star Chapters) may petition for membership. Rainbow or Job’s Daughter petitioners must have been active in their youth group for at least three (3) years or have reached “majority,” and be at least 18 years of age.
Is Eastern Star A Religion?
The Order of the Eastern Star is not a religion, but its members are religious. Like the Masonic Fraternity, membership in the Order is open to members of all religious affiliations, but petitioners must profess to believe in a Supreme Being.
The initiation ceremony and character-building lessons of the Order appeal to persons with spiritual values, and members. The Order is not a substitute for religion but, rather, a complement to each member’s church and faith.
Where Are Eastern Star Meetings Held?
Most chapters of the Order of the Eastern Star meet in a Masonic Lodge room on a day or night that it is not being used by a lodge. Occasionally, larger chapters may have their own building or meeting room within a Masonic Temple. On special occasions, when a large attendance is expected, a chapter may “move” its meeting to rented facilities in a church or school.
How Did the Order of the Eastern Star Begin?
Dr. Rob Morris, the Poet Laureate of Masonry, is acknowledged as the “Master Builder” of the Order of the Eastern Star. He was born in 1818 and grew up and attended college in New York. He was a teacher and school administrator in Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky. He became a Master Mason in Oxford, Mississippi in 1846, and quickly embraced the teachings of the fraternity through his research and writings. Many of his Masonic books are valued references in many Masonic Libraries.
Never quite satisfied that all the good in Masonry should be confined to men, Dr. Morris, along with his wife, Charlotte (nee Mendenhall) explored the idea of an Order in which women could share with their Masonic Brothers the same inspiration that "prompts man to noble deeds."
In 1850, Dr. Morris developed the Eastern Star Degrees in their present initiatory form using selected women of the Bible who personified heroic conduct and moral values. The five degrees use these examples to teach the Masonic principles of charity, truth and loving kindness. His wife, their daughters and some neighbors were among the first initiates of the Order, which now has chapters throughout the world. Today, the Order has more than 650,000 members in over 5,000 chapters.
Dr. Morris, in addition to founding the Order of the Eastern Star, also served as Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Kentucky in 1858-59. Over the years, he wrote more than 400 poems, many of which were devoted to Eastern Star and Masonry. While traveling in the Holy Land, he wrote the words to the hymn “O Galilee” and, in 1854, wrote “The Level and the Square,” which may be his best-known poem.
In December, 1884, Dr. Morris was crowned the “Poet Laureate of Freemasonry,” an honor which had not been granted since the death of Robert Burns in 1796. He died in July 31, 1888 and is buried in LaGrange, Kentucky. His grave is marked with a tall marble shaft which bears the square and compasses of the Masonic fraternity on one side, and the five-pointed star emblem of the Order of the Eastern Star on the other.
Who are the Biblical Heroines in Eastern Star?
Their are five “degrees” or lessons in the Order of the Eastern Star. Each is based on a Biblical heroine -- three from the Old Testament and two from the New Testament. Each of the five degrees also represents a woman’s relationship to her family -- daughter, sister, wife, widow, and mother. Each of the degrees teaches a moral lesson that is designed to improve and build character.
Some of the Eastern Star heroines are well-known Biblical characters -- Ruth, Esther and Martha. The other two are not as well-known, and are not even named in the Bible, but they also have important stories to tell -- Adah, daughter of Jephthah (Judges), and “the elect lady,” a charitable early Christian to whom St. John the Evangelist wrote one of his epistles.
Are There Any Famous Eastern Star Members?
Among the thousands of men and women who have been and are members of the Order of the Eastern Star, you will find untold numbers who have been leaders in their churches and communities, serving humankind in numerous ways that are consistent with the teachings of the Order. You may not know them as members of the Order of the Eastern Star, but they are there, practicing the lessons that are taught in Eastern Star chapters. Among those who are best known are American Red Cross Founder Clara Barton and author Laura Ingalls Wilder.