What are the Prince Hall Ladies groups?

As a whole, Prince Hall Freemasonry has always been far more inclusive of the ladies of its members than that of Caucasian Freemasonry. Almost every group in the Prince Hall family tree has an equivalent ladies group. These include:

  • Blue Lodge = Eastern Star
  • Royal Arch Chapter = Heroines of Jericho
  • Council of Royal and Select Masters = Ladies of the Circle of Perfection
  • Commandery of Knights Templar = Cyrene Crusaders
  • Scottish Rite = Ladies of the Golden Circle
  • Shrine = Daughters of Isis

Plus there are many more local and regional bodies beyond this list. Interestingly enough, many of these groups have chosen to wear fezzes as part of their official regalia. The popularity of the fez amongst Prince Hall ladies groups is enormous and provides a curious, yet welcome area for the collection to expand!

Order of the Eastern Star

Of all the organizations to gain tractions amongst the African American branch of Freemasonry, the Order of the Eastern Star was perhaps one of the most successful. With its timeless lessons for women, the Order grew at an outstanding pace and is still one of the largest organizations related to Prince Hall Freemasonry.

The ladies were early adopters of the fez and it soon became standard issue within the group. This fez, while slightly fancy thanks to the jewels, is pretty standard for the group. It comes from Rose of Sharon Chapter No. 3 in San Francisco, CA. Unfortunately, many of the jewels are beginning to fall off and there is a small stain near the tassel. The real problem with identifying any more information with this piece is the number of “clandestine” OES organizations operating outside mainstream Prince Hall Freemasonry. It is still a great piece though!

Queen of the South

The Queen of the South is a degree unique to Prince Hall Freemasonry. Originally practiced as the middle of the three degrees of the Rite of Adoption (with Eastern Star preceding it and Amaranth following it.) It’s use among primarily Caucasian Grand Lodges has long since been dropped. A full history of the Adoptive Rite and how it is worked can be found here.

Our understanding is that the Degree is conferred as an honor upon dedicated members of the Eastern Star. All of the officers correspond to officers in an Eastern Star Chapter. The story of the degree is based upon the interactions of Solomon and Sheba.

This piece comes from Royal Queen Esther Court No. 30, located in San Diego, California. The piece is produced by LAFSCO and is dated to the 90’s.

Order of the Amaranth

The Order of the Amaranth developed out of the Eastern Star tradition among regular Masonic Lodges. Eastern Star and Amaranth were connected for a time in an organization known as the “Adoptive Rite,” which also included the Queen of the South degree. A woman had to be a member of Eastern Star before taking the other two degrees. The National Grand Chapter of Eastern Star didn’t take to kindly to being at the bottom on the proverbial pole and it wasn’t long until the membership requirement was dropped. However, the Prince Hall affiliated Eastern Star didn’t put up such a fight and in many jurisdictions the Amaranth degree is considered an honorary or higher grade degree. For a full history of these events check out Dr. Paul Rich’s article as published in Heredom.

This fez obviously hails from California, where Prince Hall Amaranth is still very active. It is believed to be a fairly modern piece as all of the design is embroidered, with plastic based rhinestones.

Ladies of the Circle of Perfection

The Ladies Circle of Perfection (or LOCOP as it is more often seen) is a ladies auxiliary tied to the Council of Royal and Select Master Masons, PHA. This organization only exists within the Prince Hall framework and is a relatively new invention compared to the rest of Masonry. The best information available to the museum is that it was originally developed in the late 1950’s in the State of New York. This would explain why it is generally more popular in the Eastern US.

LOCOP exists in several PHA Jurisdictions, but up until 2004 it only functioned on a state level. After that time, a General Grand Conference was established, creating a national ruling body for the organization. The seven founding jurisdictions were New York, Washington DC, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida.

This fez is a good example of a basic LOCOP piece. It is purple, with a white tassel, embroidered with the logo of the organization (a broken triangle with an inset circle) and the name of the local Court to which the member belonged. In this case, Princess Irene Court No. 10 operates under the jurisdiction of the Grand Court of Pennsylvania. According the the PA LOCOP website, this Court is still active.

Moving up in rank, we find this Esther Grand Court LOCOP fez. Esther Grand Court is located in Pennsylvania and is exteremely active. The fez is purple, with gold embroidery, with a purple tassel. It is surmised that this is the fez of a Grand Line officer. The fez is relatively modern, dating from the 1980’s or later.

Coming from the same dealer as the previous fez, this Esther Grand Court piece belonged to a Past Royal Grand Perfect Matron (as evidenced by the letters on the fez.) The Grand Royal Perfect Matron is the state level head of the organization and this fez would be presented to her upon the completion of her term of office. As you can see, this fez is much more ornate, being completed in silver bullion thread. The tassel is purple and yellow intermixed, probably denoted past rank. Again, this fez probably dates from the 1980’s or later.

Order of Cyrene Crusaders

The Order of Cyrenes is unique to Prince Hall Freemasony. It started in Pennsylvania in 1884, consisting of wives, widows, mothers, and daughters of Master Masons. They originally wanted to benefit humanity, taking on Simon of Cyrene as their example. The first “Court” was St. James Royal No. 1, located in Southeastern Pennsylvania. In 1904, the Grand Commandery of Pennsylvania, PHA, officially adopted the Order of Cyrenes as their ladies auxiliary. In 1919 the group spread to Washington, D.C, and to New Jersey in 1926. Local groups are led by a Royal Commandress (a female) and Chief Engineer (a Master Mason.) The group is still active today, operating mainly in the Northeastern United States.

Many think this fez belongs to some Knight Templar group of the York Rite of Freemasonry when actually it hails from the Order of Cyrenes. The design, created in embroidery, is a cross and crown. The fez is black with a yellow tassel, which is the basic design for the Order. This is a relatively new piece, probably from the 1980’s or early 1990’s.

Council of Crusaders

Prince Hall Freemasonry, both recognized and irregular, is known for the large constellation of women’s auxiliaries that support the fraternity. The Council of Crusaders, not to be confused with the Cyrene Crusaders, is very small and relatively unknown Order that admits Prince Hall Knights Templar, their wives, and female relatives. The fez, as shown here, is not in universal usage. Though, to be fair, there doesn’t seem to be a large governing body that manages the Order. Individual state Grand Councils appear to be left on their own to govern.

The fez is maroon, with yellow embroidery and a yellow tassel. It was made in Baltimore, MD, by a relatively unknown fez manufacturer. The symbol is a cross superimposed over a crescent with the letters “BTSC” within the created quadrants. The owner of this fez would have belonged to Martha Council No. 1 of Maryland. It probably dates from the 1970’s or later.

The Imperial Court (fka Daughters of Isis)

The Imperial Court (formerly known as the Daughters of Isis prior to a name change in the twenty-teens) is the female auxiliary of the AEAONMS, Prince Hall Affiliated. Groups began to pop up around the early 1900’s. The Imperial Court (the national governing body) was founded in Detroit Michigan on March 24, 1910, by representatives from Maryland, Rhode Island, and Washington, DC. The group aims to support the PHA Shrine, provided positive role models for young people, and “practice charity and benevolence, and to inculcate honor and integrity as symbolized in the legend of the Egyptian queen, the goddess Isis.” Specific programs include education and scholarships, volunteer activities, financial donations. From a small beginning of 12 “Courts” the organization now claims more than 200 local bodies, operating in the United States, Canada, Germany, Italy, and Japan.

These two examples better depict the current pieces worn by the group. The first fez comes from Amer Court No. 65, located in Dayton, Ohio. The logo and name are done entirely in embroidery, which is fairly intricate. This is somewhat unusual, as most PHA fezzes that seem to prefer rhinestones over embroidery (although embroidery is often times cheaper.)

The other fez, which comes from Makalia Court No. 137 located in Hartford, CT, provides an example of the more traditional Daughters fez. It is done mostly in rhinestones of varying colors and has a very nice tassel holder as well. This fez also happens to be a Past Illustrious Commanderess fez, which would have been issued to a Daughter after she served a term as local president.

Of all of the variations of fezzes that we look for, those worn by past national leaders are the hardest to come by and the most prized. This fez was owned by a Past Imperial Commandress, or national president, of the Order. As you can see, this fez is high quality, with several rhinestones and remarkable embroidery and workmanship. It probably dates from the 1980’s or later.

This fez is particularly unique in that it uses the traditional Shriners logo rather than the better known egyptian figure that usually graces a Daughters of Isis fez. It is presumed that this fez is from the very early days of the organization, before they adopted their current logo and regalia.