Freemasonry for women came to this country from France in 1902 in the form of mixed Lodges (Co-Masonry). In 1908 some Co-Masons decided to break away to start a new Order because they objected to control from France and to some of the ritual and influences found in Co-Masonry. They wanted to practise Freemasonry on the same lines as the male United Grand Lodge of England.
The Honourable Fraternity of Antient Masonry was founded on 20 June 1908 and its first Grand Master and driving force was a man - the Rev Dr William Frederick Cobb. However, since 1912, the Grand Masters have all been women. The new Order at first included both men and women, but eventually the decision was taken in the early 1920s to restrict entrance to women only and no longer admit men as visitors. Although a handful of loyal men remained in office, by 1935 we had become an exclusively female organisation and we remain so today. Another Masonic Order for women had been founded in 1913, and to avoid confusion in names we added 'Order of Women Freemasons' to our title in 1958. This is the name by which we are known today.
From a beginning with three small Lodges in 1908 we have gradually increased in numbers and locations. The 1950s and 1960s were particularly active in expansion, especially abroad. In 2005 a Lodge was opened at Fuengirola near Malaga in Spain.
We have had nine Grand Masters or heads of the Order. Most Worshipful Brother Brenda I Fleming-Taylor, who held office from 1989 until 2010, was instrumental in bringing to the Order openness and pride in our presence in the wider world. She was succeeded in 2010 by Most Worshipful Brother Zuzanka Daniella Penn, who is set to guide the Order through the challenges of the 21st century.