The Order of the Eastern Star is a woman's group affiliated with the Masonic Temple. The group was founded by a free mason in the 1800s who created the Degrees and initiated his wife and daughters as the first members. The group is supposedly non-denominational but is founded upon religious themes. The Degrees represent five principles of the order and are based upon five biblical women. The principles of the Order are fidelity, constancy, loyalty, faith and love.
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The Order of the Eastern Star was founded in 1850 by Robert Morris, a member of the Freemasons. He developed the Degrees of the order and felt that the benefits of Masonry should be extended to women. The actual nexus of the organisation began in France around 1703 but did not find recognition in the United States until much later and after plenty of modification. The order became open to female family members of Freemasons.
The Order of the Eastern Star was initially supposed to be the first of several orders or degrees. There is also the degree of the Queen of the South, Past Matrons Degree and the Amaranth Degree. The Order resides primarily within the jurisdiction of the General Grand Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star. There are peripheral organisations like Rainbow Girls and the Federation of Eastern Stars which is attempting to unify all Eastern Star Members.
The degrees stem from the acts and stories surrounding five biblical women. These are Adah, Ruth, Ester, Martha and Electa. Each woman personified specific moral virtues that it was deemed appropriate for modern women to emulate. Each Degree represented has specific verse and ritual enacted surrounding the virtue. These are secret amongst the society and only members are privy to the exact words and rites performed. The Order states that it is not religious however you must believe in a Supreme Being and the teachings come from the Christian bible.
The Order of the Easter Star was initially a family version of the Masons but was under the control of the male members. Even today the women in the organisation must be conferred by a man and has to be queried by a male after she has completed all the degrees of ritual. Today the organisation does charity work and raises money for scholarships. In spite of its non-denominational nature the scholarships awarded are religious in nature.
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