|Original Signet of the Order|
The Order of the Eastern Star is one of the largest fraternal organizations under the Masonic umbrella in which both women with proper Masonic heritage and Master Masons may join. This group should not be confused with Co-Masonry, a form of fringe Freemasonry that don't hold recognition or regularity with mainstream Grand Lodges. The initiatic ritual of this organization centers on the lives of the five Biblical heroines: Adah (Jephthah's daughter, from the Book of Judges), Ruth (the widow of Mahlon), Esther (the wife of the Persian King Ahasuerus or Xerxes I), Martha (sister of Lazarus from the Gospel of John), and Electa (the "elected lady" mentioned in II John). Membership is open to all Master Masons in good standing. Women can join if they share a familial relationship with a Master Mason as defined in the Constitution of the General Grand Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star. Female members are referred to as "Sister" and Masons keep the moniker "Brother" within the order.
The basic organizational unit is the Chapter which is presided over by a Worthy Matron and Worthy Patron. They are supported by the following officers:
Only women can serve as the Matrons and men as the Patrons. Only women can serve as Conductress, Associate Conductress, or one of the five star points, but either can serve in the rest of the Chapter officers. With some exceptions, Chapters fall under a Grand Chapter which is presided over by a Worthy Grand Matron and Worthy Grand Patron along with officers that correspond with the Chapter. Grand Chapters fall under the General Grand Chapter which is presided over by the Most Worthy Grand Matron and Most Worthy Grand Patron. One difference from these governing bodies to the local Chapter is that each Grand Officer, or General Grand Officer, is that each officer has a Page and Assistant to help them during their year and during the meetings. The General Grand Chapter is currently headquartered at the Perry-Belmont House in Washington DC. There are Grand Chapters in New York, New Jersey, Australia, and Scotland that are not a part of the General Grand Chapter.
The emblem of this order is a five pointed star which is said to represent the Star of Bethlehem. Each point is a different color representing one of the five heroines: blue (Adah), yellow, (Ruth), White (Esther), green (Martha), and red (Electa). The star points downward with the white ray as to demonstrate that the star pointed the way of the Magi to the Savior in His Manger; in the Chapter room, the white ray points towards the West. Each point of the star represents one of the heroines mentioned above and is also emblematically represented by a specific symbol: Adah is represented by the blue point of the star and symbolizes the virtue of Fidelity. She is represented by the sword and veil. The yellow point of the star is the seat of Ruth who is symbolized by a sheaf of barley and represents the virtue Constancy and devotion to that which is righteous. The virtue of Loyalty is exemplified in the story of Esther who stands upon the white point of the star and is symbolized by the crown and scepter. The broken column symbolizes the mortality of man and the perseverance in trials as told in the story of Martha at the green point of the star. The elected lady or commonly known as Electa is placed upon the red point of the star which color is commonly used to represent martyrs as she stood by her faith in the face of persecution and is symbolized by the chalice. This emblem has drawn criticism from religious fanatics and conspiracy theorists alike comparing it to the inverted pentagram co-opted by Satanists, but ignoring the lessons and the fact that this emblem represents Biblical women from the Old and New Testaments.
The Order of the Eastern Star was founded by Dr. Rob Morris, a Master Mason teachings in Mississippi. In 1850, he became sick and while recuperating at home, he began writing the principles and lessons of the order with the help of his wife, Charlotte. It is said that Dr. Morris wanted to create an order that allowed for the inclusion of women with Freemasonry without violating the Ancient Landmarks that define the fraternity. By 1855, he had organized a "Supreme Constellation" that had chapters throughout the US and was headquartered in New York. In 1867, Robert Macoy organized the order to help it better flourish and established the ritual, and, in the same year, the first Grand Chapter was established in Michigan. The General Grand Chapter was established in 1876.
The current headquarters of the General Grand Chapter is known as the Perry-Belmont House, just northeast of Dupont Circle in Washington DC. The house was originally built as a winter home for Perry Belmont, Congressman of New York, in 1909. The location had formally been a park and cost roughly $500,000 to build (over $14,000,000 today). After the stock market crashed in 1929, he sold the house and the Order of the Eastern Star purchased it in 1935. The Right Worthy Grand Secretary of the General Grand Chapter actually lives and works in this residence during their time in office. There are also rooms available for the Most Worthy Grand Matron, Most Worthy Grand Patron, and the trustees. The General Grand Chapter has started a preservation foundation to help maintain the residence and all are invited to donate to this worthy cause: http://www.perrybelmonthouse.org/preservation
Among the various charities supported by the Eastern Star, one notable venture is the ESTARL program which was established by the General Grand Chapter in October 1952. ESTARL stands for Eastern Star Training Awards for Religious Leadership. It is a scholar fund awarded to those who are going to school for the purpose of religious training. Each Grand Chapter has its own program that they administer.
Carter, E. (n.d.). International Temple of the Order of the Eastern Star. Retrieved from Atlas Obscura: https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/international-temple-order-of-the-eastern-star
Eastern Star Training Awards for Religious Leadership (ESTARL). (2019, July 2). Retrieved from Grand Chapter of Iowa, OES: http://www.iowaeasternstar.org/ESTARL.html
OES Info. (n.d.). Retrieved from General Grand Chapter, OES: http://www.easternstar.org/
Order of the Eastern Star. (n.d.). Retrieved from Masonic Dictionary: http://www.masonicdictionary.com/oes.html
Order of the Eastern Star. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Order_of_the_Eastern_Star
Preserve our Eastern Star Masterpieces. (n.d.). Retrieved from Perry Belmont House Foundation: http://www.perrybelmonthouse.org/preservation