Freemasonry and Women

The International Order of the Rainbow

2016_040_3DS1

The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library recently acquired some items related to the International Order of the Rainbow for Girls, a group commonly known as the Rainbow Girls. The organization, founded in 1922 by Reverend W. Mark Sexson (1877-1953), was created for young women ages 11 to 20, whose fathers or family members were members of Masonic organizations. The group is now open to any girl interested in joining and offers a “Pledge” group for younger girls aged 8-10. The Rainbow Girls Headquarters have been located in McAlister, Oklahoma since 1951 and according to the Rainbow Girls organization, there are presently more than 850 assemblies that meet regularly around the world.

The Rainbow Girls organization was one of many Masonic-sponsored youth groups organized in the early 1920s to help teenage boys and girls develop “good citizenship and sound character.” Like Freemasons, the groups incorporated elements of ritual into their meetings and ceremonies. In 1922, Sexson, a 33°Mason, developed the Rainbow Girls ritual which focused on a series of seven lessons and “stations” representing the seven colors of the rainbow.

The most common symbols associated with the Rainbow Girls are a pot of gold, a rainbow, and and two hands clasped together with the initials “BFCL” (for bible, flag, constitution, and lambskin).  Lambskin is a reference to the lambskin aprons worn by Freemasons.

These attendance and officer pins are two examples of the paraphernalia in Rainbow Girl ceremony, meetings, and ritual. The 1950 photograph above shows a group of officers from Lexington Assembly #37 at Simon W. Robinson Masonic Lodge in Lexington, Massachusetts.

2016_040_11DI6IMG_1490 copyWe are actively collecting Rainbow Girls items. Do you or any family members have Rainbow Girls items, photographs, or ephemera? We would love to hear from you! Please contact Ymelda Rivera Laxton, Assistant Curator at ylaxton[@]srmml.org.

Captions:

Rainbow Girls attendance pin, 1980-1985, unidentified maker, United States, Gift of Beth McSweeney, 2016.040.11.

Rainbow Girls Worthy Advisor pin,1983, unidentified maker, United States, Gift of Beth McSweeney, 2016.040.9

Reference:

Margaret Kendrick, Our place in time: 75 years of history: International Order of the Rainbow for Girls, McAlester, Oklahoma: International Order of the Rainbow for Girls, 1998.

 

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Lecture: “In the Neatest Manner at the Shortest Notice: Collaborating on Masonic Aprons”

Master Mason Apron
Master Mason Apron, 1846-1862, A. Sisco Regalia Company, Baltimore, Maryland, Special Acquisitions Fund, 88.42.125. Photograph by David Bohl.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

2 PM

Lecture and book signing by Aimee E. Newell, Ph.D., Director of Collections at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library

A Mason’s apron is one of the most recognizable symbols of Freemasonry. Aprons from the early 1800s were often works of art which reflected a tangible connection between a member and his experience as a Mason. These detailed and symbolically decorated aprons reflect the collaboration between a Mason and the craftsman or woman who created it.

In her lecture Aimee E. Newell, Director of Collections and author of book The Badge of a Freemason: Masonic Aprons from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library will discuss the relationships that produced many early-1800s Masonic aprons. Using examples from the Museum’s collection, Dr. Newell will discuss how each apron represented a unique collaboration between Mason and maker. One example is a painted apron made in the 1820s in Salem, Massachusetts. Maker Nathan Lakeman and client Charles Peabody were fellow Jordan Lodge members suggesting a shared understanding of the symbolism depicted on the apron. Aimee E. Newell, Ph.D.

Newell will also discuss the role of female makers in apron construction. Although barred from membership, women were not absent from the temple; they employed a working knowledge of Masonic symbolism to create aprons. Like many other craftsmen of the era, these women utilized their skills to serve a growing Masonic clientele.

Dr. Newell is pleased to offer a book signing after her lecture.

This lecture is made possible by the generous sponsorship of the Ruby W. and LaVon P. Linn Foundation and is the first of four talks in the 2016 lecture series, “Enterprise and Craft in the Young Nation.”


Who Wore the Crown? Collecting Order of the Amaranth Materials

2013_049_22aDP1DBTo properly manage the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library’s collection, the curatorial staff periodically reviews the strengths and weaknesses of the collection so that, as we evaluate new gifts and purchases, we can fill gaps and avoid duplications.  One of the gaps that we are seeking to fill is material (2-d, 3-d, records and papers) associated with fraternal groups for women and children.  So, when a donor generously offered several gifts of Order of the Amaranth material over the past few years, we jumped at the opportunity (see these other posts about the organization).

The Order of the Amaranth, like Order of the Eastern Star, with which it was initially affiliated, is open to the female relatives of Master Masons, and to Master Masons themselves.  In the United States in 1873, Robert Macoy (1816-1895), who was active in Order of the Eastern Star, formed the “Rite of Adoption,” which included an Order of the Amaranth degree.  From 1873 to 1921, all members of Amaranth Courts (analogous to Eastern Star Chapters), had to join Order of the Eastern Star first.  In 1921, the two groups split, becoming the separate organizations that they remain today. 2013_049_26aDP1DB

Among the large group of Amaranth items now in our collection, ranging from props that were used in rituals to records for several courts, and souvenirs from Amaranth events to regalia, are the two crowns shown here.  Both were worn by Elsie Haynes (1915-2006) when she was active in Amaranth activities in Connecticut.  Haynes probably wore the crown in the top photo when she was Royal Matron of Charity Court No. 17, which met in Windsor, Connecticut, and later in Suffield, Connecticut.  Haynes used the crown in the lower photo when she served as Supreme Royal Matron, head of the national organization, in 1977 and 1978.

We are very pleased to have Order of the Amaranth represented in our collection.  If you have an Amaranth memory to share or a question to ask, please leave us a comment!

Order of the Amaranth Crowns, 1960-1970 (top), ca. 1977 (bottom), Unidentified makers, United States, gift of Barbara F. Lott, 2013.049.22a and .26a.  Photographs by David Bohl.

 

 


Brave the Snow to See our Cozy Masonic Quilts!

95.043.11 overall after consHere in New England, it’s the time of year when nothing seems more cozy than curling up in a warm quilt. There is no better time to visit our exhibition, “Threads of Brotherhood: Masonic Quilts and Textiles.” The exhibit is on view through March 23, 2013, so make plans now to see it before it closes. The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library is open Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with free admission and free parking.

Among the needlework on view is this quilt from about 1860, which is one of my personal favorites. I have always been drawn to its graphic nature. Unfortunately, it has rarely been exhibited because the red fabric was disintegrating and hanging it in the gallery would have caused more damage. Fortunately, we were able to perform some conservation work on the quilt to better preserve it and to finally show it off. You can see a “before” image below to the right.  As you can see, the blocks along the left-hand side of the quilt suffered the most disintegration. 95_043_11T1

This appliqué quilt is comprised of sixteen blocks showing the most common Masonic symbol – the square and compasses, signifying reason and faith. Freemasonry grew out of medieval stonemason trade guilds in England and Scotland, eventually becoming a fraternal society for men encouraging sound moral and social virtues. Freemasonry’s tenets are taught through a series of ritualized lessons using symbols to remind the initiates of important principles. Each block also shows the letter G, which stood for geometry, God, or both. At the corners of each block are four important Masonic symbols: a level symbolizing equality; a plumb signifying uprightness; a gavel reminding Masons to divest the heart of vice; and a trowel that spreads the cement that unites Freemasons in brotherly love.

95.043.11 detail after consTo get it ready for the exhibition, we worked with textile conservator Marie Schlag from The Studio for Textile Conservation in Scituate, Massachusetts. She painstakingly stabilized 35 different areas of the quilt with polyester organza.  The organza helps to reduce further disintegration and covers the areas where the foundation fabric is showing through.  This treatment allows the quilt’s red and green graphic pattern to come to the front once again. In this detail at left, you can see the muting effect of the organza where the red fabric has been lost. We are very pleased to be able to share this quilt in its newly improved condition with our visitors and look forward to caring for it for years to come.

Masonic Quilt, ca. 1860, American, Museum purchase, 95.043.11. Before photograph by David Bohl.


A Crazy Quilt

89_25S1As an amateur scholar of historic textiles and museum intern, I was excited when asked to assist the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum’s Collections Manager with transferring rolled textiles to a new, customized storage rack. During the process I was introduced to crazy quilts. Their heavily stylized designs struck me as modern and innovative for their time period. Crazy quilts became popular in the United States during the last quarter of the nineteenth century (1875-1900). Bright colors and embroidered motifs sprawling across a dark ground are characteristics of their Japanese influence. This brief glimpse at the treasures stored away inspired me to take a closer look at the textiles in the Museum’s current exhibition, “Threads of Brotherhood: Masonic Quilts and Textiles,” which includes a crazy quilt.

I asked my friend and colleague, Kate Herron Gendreau, to join me in attending a gallery talk led by Dr. Aimee Newell, the Museum’s Director of Collections (see our previous post). By trade, Kate is a handcrafted artisan specializing in embroidery and hand sewing. We share an interest in the details of female domestic roles throughout American history. When I mentioned my fascination with the crazy quilts in the Museum’s collection, I learned that Kate recently inherited the unjoined blocks of her family’s crazy quilt. I was eager to hear her opinion on the quilt in the exhibition in hopes that she might be able to enlighten me with some uncelebrated details. We never could have imagined that on the day of the gallery talk, family members of J. Bruce Spilman, who donated the crazy quilt to the Museum (in memory of his relation, Charles Hadley Spilman of Illinois, for whom the quilt was made in 1886) would be present!

The size of this quilt tells us that it was a decorative piece - at 76 inches wide and 68 3/4 inches long it is not quite large enough to be used on a bed - likely used as a sofa throw blanket or piano cover. Crazy quilts often functioned as status symbols, demonstrating that their female makers had leisure time and wealth at their disposal. Textiles made in the homes of women belonging to the working class were often simple or purely functional since daily chores and household budgets limited women's time and resources.  Unfortunately, the Spilman family members present at the gallery talk could not add to the quilt’s history, but by sifting through the notes I scribbled down while Kate swooned over “heavy hand stitching” on velvet and silk, I could see the lost story of this quilt come to life.

As Kate began rhythmically rhapsodizing about “isolated daisy chain, turkey trot and fern stitch … or maybe this is a zigzag blanket stitch,” I began to feel as if I was sitting next to the woman who created this masterpiece. While Kate explained that variegated stitching with this many color changes is something that is rarely created or appreciated today, I could envision the quilt in progress spread across the embroiderer’s lap. I was delighted to learn that many of the blocks are composed of clothing scraps. Kate identified several men’s ties and shirts as well as women’s dress and blouse material in the quilt. From these scraps we can perhaps form an impression of the personal style maintained by the household in which the quilt was made. Often quilters of this era repurposed fabric from clothing that had been stained or torn and could no longer be worn. This decorative status symbol may exhibit more frugality than we initially assume. 89_46_138S1

One feature that distinguishes this particular crazy quilt is the abundant fusion of conventional fabric and Masonic ribbons. Most of the ribbons in this quilt commemorate Knights Templar meetings in Chicago and San Francisco, dating from 1880 and 1883 (similar to the one at right from a Knights Templar meeting in 1892). Twenty-nine of the quilt’s thirty blocks include ribbons, some arranged in geometric shapes to mimic symbols used in Freemasonry. Most of the ribbons are outlined with an embroidered motif in yellowish-gold stitching that resembles the glory rays surrounding the Masonic symbol of the all-seeing eye, signifying watchfulness. As do many of the textiles in this exhibition, this crazy quilt presents a noteworthy example of the way Freemasonry has intersected popular culture throughout American history.

Masonic Quilt, ca. 1886, unidentified maker, United States, gift of J. Bruce Spilman in memory of Charles Hadley Spilman, 89.25.  Photograph by David Bohl.

Masonic Knights Templar Ribbon, 1892, unidentified maker, probably Connecticut, gift of Jacques Noel Jacobsen Jr., 89.46.138.  

 


Masonic & Fraternal Gift Books: "To the Wives, Daughters, Sisters, and Sweethearts of Freemasons"

Masonic_Offering_cover_webGift books were a popular mid-nineteenth-century publication. Usually issued in a highly decorative binding and illustrated with engravings, gift books were collections of poetry, fiction (both usually of a sentintmental nature), and various non-fiction selections. Among middle-class Americans they were a conspicuous way to express friendship or love - with their fanciful bindings, gift books were intended to be displayed in the parlor where they could be seen. The audience for gift books was primarily - perhaps exclusively - women. Women also contributed to gift books; a number of the collected poems and stories in gift books were written by women. So it may come as some surprise that there were a number of gift books published in the 1840s and 1850s that were associated with exclusively male organizations like the Freemasons and the Odd Fellows. Covers of two of these books are pictured here: The Masonic Offering for All Seasons (above) and The Odd Fellows' Offering for 1849 (below).

In the collection of the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives, we have a number of fraternal gift books. One otherwise excellent source on gift books placed fraternal gift books under the heading "Gift Books as Propaganda," writing, "the Odd Fellows, Freemasons, Sons of Temperance and Know-Nothing Party often published 'souvenir' books of similar make-up to literary annuals but with content to serve their purposes." While it is true that these fraternal gift books contain a majority of material that is either directly related to the organization, or which focuses heavily on the goals and tenets (e.g. friendship, love, truth, charity, benevolence, etc.) of the group, it is possible to look at these fraternal gift books in a slightly different way.

Odd_Fellows_Offering_for_1849_cover_webFreemasonry in the nineteenth-century lodge room was an exclusively male event. Home life, however, was different. As we've written in earlier posts, nineteenth-century women were familiar with Masonic symbols and participated in Freemasonry through the decoration of Masonic aprons, the making of Masonic-themed samplers, the making of quilts embellished with Masonic symbols, and even the illustration of a Masonic "Mark book." Perhaps it is not too much of a stretch to imagine that a man who was a Mason might have wanted to share his enthusiasm about Freemasonry or other fraternal organizations with a female member of his family in a way that was both culturally and fraternally approved. A fraternal gift book, given as a birthday, Christmas, or even New Year's gift, would have fit the bill perfectly.

The evidence of Masons wanting to share their knowledge about the teachings of Freemasonry with female loved ones is made explicit in these gift books. In the preface to The Masonic Offering for All Seasons, published in the early 1850s and dedicated to the "Wives, Daughters, Sisters, and Sweethearts of Freemasons," the editor writes:

"Every Society of any standing has its Annual [i.e. literary annual, or gift book]; and why not the Masonic Order? It has principles inferior to none--evidences equal to any; and, if antiquity has aught to do with the matter, Masons undoubtedly take precedence.

The gentler sex should learn more of Masonry; and this is one object of this book. It sets forth these truths that will not only prove a blessing to them, but to those around the social circle; and it will enable them more powerfully to wield that influence they are so admirably adapted to exercise, for the benefit of themselves and others."

While not all of the gift books in our collection are inscribed, some are, and show evidence of these books having been used as intended. Nearly all of these books contain elaborately decorated presentation pages, intended to be filled out by the gift-giver to the recipient. One of our copies of a Masonic gift book called The Emblem: A Gift for All Seasons, for example, reflects the nineteenth-century activity of exchanging gifts at New Year's and is inscribed to "Mollie K. Randolph, New Year's 1859."

If you're interested in learning more generally about gift books, a couple of good online resources can be found below.

"Gift Books and Annuals." American Women: A Library of Congress Guide for the Study of Women's History and Culture in the United States.

"Tokens of Affection: Art, Literature, and Politics in Nineteenth Century American Gift Books." Publishers' Bindings Online, 1815-1930: The Art of Books.

 To see what gift books we have in our collections, do a subject search for "gift books" in our online catalog.

Captions:

Rev. John Perry and Paschal Donaldson, eds. The Masonic Offering for All Seasons: Faith, Hope, Charity. New York: Cornish, Lamport & Co., [between 1851 and 1853]. Gift of Wallace M. Gage.
Call number: RARE 60 .P463

The Odd Fellows' Offering for 1849. New York: Edward Walker, 1849. Gift of Grant B. Romer.
Call number: RARE HS997 .D676 1849
[A digitized copy is available via Google Books]


"Threads of Brotherhood" Gallery Talk on Saturday, Sept. 15

Join us at 2 PM on Saturday, September 15 for an intriguing free talk in the “Threads of Brotherhood: Masonic Quilts and Textiles" gallery. Aimee Newell, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library's Director of Collections, will explore women's contribution to Freemasonry in the 1800s and the 1900s.

How could women play a role in the impact that Freemasonry, an exclusively male organization, has had on American culture? Tangible evidence of women's support for their male relatives' Masonic activities are the skillfully executed textile work on view at the Museum in the "Threads of Brotherhood" exhibition.

Since the 1700s, this work has connected women not only to family and tradition, but also to the larger community. Auxiliary groups of women have contributed to Masonic organizations for centuries, helping them fundraise, sewing their regalia, and providing lodge decoration. By stitching a quilt or hooking a rug, a woman could both demonstrate support of her relations’ Masonic activities, as well as her knowledge of Masonic symbolism and ethics. These cherished family heirlooms that signified family identification with Freemasonry also functioned as educational tools – teaching family members about Masonic symbols and reminding Masons of the lessons they learned in the lodge. And, like the quilts used to fundraise for political or social causes, Masonic quilts and textiles were – and still are – used to raise money for Masonic projects and charities.

76_33_1 3 figures_croppedOne of the objects you will see in the exhibition is this needlework picture, stiched on silk that has been painted with watercolors. The young woman who created it in 1808 copied the design of a Past Master’s certificate to commemorate Benjamin Russell’s (1761-1845) term as Master of Boston’s Rising States Lodge. You can read a previous blog post by Aimee Newell that explores how the detail in the image celebrates Bejamin Russell's tenure as Master of the Rising States Lodge. If you are curious about Benjamin Russell himself, here is a link to J. L. Bell's Boston 1775 posts on this very interesting personality.  

Textiles can teach us about the individuals who them.  Between the end of the 1700s and the 1820s, some young women, and possibly the unknown maker of this object, attending female academies.  These educational institutions catered to daughters of elite and middling families.  At these academies students honed their needlework skills and may have received instruction in making silk and watercolor embroidered pictures like this one. Needlework pictures were often vibrant scenes done in rich - and costly - materials based on Biblical, historical, memorial, and literary sources. Many female academies also offered instruction in academic subjects such as French, geography, and mathematics, in addition to needlework.  An education at a female academy in the early 1800s represented an investment on the part of a young student's family.  In some cases, costs for tuition, board, and materials at a female academy could rival that of sending a young man to college.

Join us for this gallery talk and see what other stories can be told through the Masonic quilts and textiles featured in "Threads of Brotherhood." There will be another staff-led gallery talk about this exhibition on Saturday, October 20. It will be held at 1 PM so that participants can attend the 2 PM lecture by Pamela Weeks on "Quilts for Civil War Soldiers: Stories from the Home Front and the Battlefield."

The gallery talk is free. For further information, call the Museum's front desk at 781-861-6559 or refer to our website.

Photo credit:

Masonic Needlework Picture, 1808. Massachusetts. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, Special Acquisitions Fund, 76.33.1.  Photograph by John M. Miller


Celebrating a Past Master

76_33_1T1This silk needlework picture from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library collection is one of my favorite pieces.  It shows allegorical figures of Wisdom (Athena wearing a helmet), Strength (Hercules wearing a lion skin and holding crossed keys) and Beauty (Venus trailing a rose vine) and commemorates the service of Benjamin Russell (1761-1845) as Master of Boston's Rising States Lodge in 1808.

The silk background fabric has been painted with watercolors to create the blue sky with white clouds and the grassy ground.  An all-seeing eye at top, symbolizing watchfulness, and the faces of the figures have also been painted onto the fabric, likely by a professional artist.  The unidentified maker of this picture, probably a young woman, then used silk thread to stitch the central monument.  Masonic symbols and an inscription complete the picture.  Pictures like this one were expensive to make and required a stitcher to have skill with the needle.  If the stitcher made mistakes and stitches had to be pulled out, it could cause holes in the fabric, ruining the piece.

The design for the needlework comes from a Masonic Past Master's Certificate, originally engraved by John Hawksworth, active in England between about 1815 and 1845.  The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library holds eight examples of the printed certificate.  One, for Richard Colton of Northfield, Massachusetts' Harmony Lodge is dated 1818, but the other seven were presented during between 1896 and 1954, suggesting that the design remained popular for a long time and was restruck at least once.  The collection of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, on extended loan to the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, also includes two examples of the certificate, one dated 1821 and one dated 1916.

The inscription on the needlework picture reads: "To all regular Lodges / The Rt. Worshipfull presiding and / past Masters / thereof / The / Members of / Rising States Lodge / situate in th[e] Town of Boston / No. under our jurisdiction / Elected Bror. / Benj. Russell / the bearer Most Worshipfull Master / A.L. 58 In which / station he was a Light to his / Brethren and an ornament to the / Craft / This testimonial of his meritorious / service recommends him to / the hospitality A.L. / and protection due to a faithful overseer / 5808 / by order of the Most Worshipfull Grand Ma[ster] / John Proctor Grand Secretary."

Benjamin Russell, who published Boston's Columbian Centinel newspaper from 1784 until 1829, joined the city's Rising States Lodge in the 1790s, later affiliating with Boston's St. John's Lodge in 1811.  From 1814 through 1816, Russell served as Grand Master of Massachusetts.

The picture is currently (August 2012) on view at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library in our exhibition, Threads of Brotherhood: Masonic Quilts and Textiles (see our previous post about the exhibition and this post about related gallery talks).  We hope you will plan a visit soon to see this picture in person!

Masonic Needlework Picture, 1808, Unidentified Maker, Massachusetts, Special Acquisitions Fund, 76.33.1.  Photograph by John M. Miller.


Gallery Talks: "Threads of Brotherhood: Masonic Quilts and Textiles"

2010_006DP1 Statue Liberty quilt_WebCompressWhat contribution did women’s textiles make to Freemasonry’s vibrant shaping of American families and communities in the 1800s and the 1900s?

To find out, join Director of Collections Aimee E. Newell on Saturday, July 28, 2:00 p.m. in the "Threads of Brotherhood: Masonic Quilts and Textiles" exhibition. This free gallery talk will offer visitors insights into how women demonstrated knowledge of Masonic values with their needles and created lasting reminders of their skills. This new exhibition features more than 25 quilts, coverlets, needlework pictures, and hooked rugs drawn from the Museum's collection. It tells a compelling story of connected lives and shared values.

We will offer two "Threads of Brotherhood" gallery talks in the fall:

Saturday, September 15, 2:00 p.m. and Saturday, October 20, 1:00 p.m.

2002_008T1 cover quilt_WebCompressThe October gallery talk is scheduled prior to Pamela Week's 2 p.m. lecture on Civil War quilts for soldiers.  Combined, the two programs provide an ideal opportunity to explore how women used their needlework to help shape public life in 19th century America.

Save the dates! We'll see you at the Museum!

Photo Credits:

Lady Liberty Lights the Way, 1985, Nancy M. Crasco, Massachusetts. Gift of Nancy Crasco, 2010.006.  Photograph by David Bohl.

Masonic Quilt, 1880-1920, unidentified maker, probably Ohio.  Musuem purchase, 2002.008. Photograph by David Bohl.


Threads of Brotherhood: Masonic Quilts and Textiles

2002_008T1Make plans now to come see our newest exhibition, "Threads of Brotherhood: Masonic Quilts and Textiles," which opens June 16, 2012, and runs through late 2012.  The exhibition includes over 25 objects from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library collection.

Textiles incorporating Masonic symbols, both home-made and commercially manufactured, have served many functions since the 1700s.  They have transmitted family memories and history, becoming cherished heirlooms.  They signified family identification with Freemasonry.  Creating these objects offered an opportunity for the maker to display their skills.  These textiles also functioned as educational tools - teaching family members about Masonic symbols and reminding Masons of the lessons they learned in the lodge.  Like the quilts used to fundraise for political or social causes, Masonic quilts and textiles were - and still are - used to raise money for Masonic projects and charities.

The quilt above employs several Masonic symbols, appliqued in red, green and gold, a popular color combination during the late 1800s.  The central motif in each block is a square and compasses symbol (representing reason and faith) with a stylized G in the middle (symbolizing God, geometry, or both).  Trowels, mauls, plumbs and levels decorate the borders.  The quilt offered its maker a way to learn about the values represented by the symbols.  It may have been a gift to a Freemason and could have reminded the recipient of Masonic lessons.

The exhibition also includes other forms of needlew76_33_1T1ork, such as embroidery and rug hooking.  The needlework picture at right was stitched in Massachusetts in 1808.  Using skills learned at a local academy, the female maker copied the design of a Past Master's certificate to commemorate Benjamin Russell's (1761-1845) term as Master of Boston's Rising States Lodge.

Textiles teach us about the individuals who made and enjoyed them, but also about the place of Freemasonry in American society.  Please enjoy these "threads of brotherhood" as they tell a story of connected lives and shared values.  Visit our website for more information.  And, after you visit, come back and leave us a comment below about your favorite object!

Masonic Quilt, 1880-1920, unidentified maker, probably Ohio, Museum Purchase, 2002.008.  Photograph by David Bohl.

Needlework Picture, 1808, unidentified maker, Massachusetts, Special Acquisitions Fund, 76.33.1.  Photograph by John M. Miller.