A brief History
The concept of what we know today as the Order of the Eastern Star had its origin in France, where it was most extensively promoted, and spread to other parts of Europe. The most trustworthy claim as to the date and place of its origin is that the organisation began about the middle of the 18th Century.
The Order was of the highest character and its ritual, rites and ceremonies were ornate and beautiful. However the system did not appeal to the manners and habits of the American people and it was not introduced into America at that time
Most Worshipful Brother Dr. Robert Morris, Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Kentucky, 1858/59, a very learned and respected Masonic Lecturer, and ultimately Poet Laureate of Freemasonry, introduced an imitation of it which he had compiled, under the name of the American Adoptive Rite. It consisted of a ceremony of initiation and of five degrees named (1) Jephthah’s Daughter, or daughter’s degree; (2) Ruth, or the widow’s degree; (3) Esther, or the wife’s degree; (4) Martha or the sister’s degree; (5) Electa, or the Christian Martyr (or mother’s degree). These five degrees formed the five points of the star used as an emblem of the order to this day.
The objects were to associate in one common bond the worthy wives, widows, daughters and sisters of Freemasons; to secure to them advantages from a moral, social and charitable point of view, and from them, the performance of corresponding duties. These were similar to the original purpose of the organisation which had become so popular in France and throughout much of Europe.
Because of the fact that Dr. Morris had prepared the outline of the ritual for the organisation, as adopted by the General Grand Chapter of America of the Order of the Eastern Star in 1876 in Indianapolis, Indiana, Dr. Robert Morris is often credited with being the founder of the Order. He certainly had much to do with creating favourable conditions for such an organisation and contributed greatly to the final establishment of the General Grand Chapter of America of the Order of the Eastern Star.
The Ritual and Ceremonies, which still remain little altered from his original work, were evolved by Robert Morris when he was in a deeply religious state of mind. The first four of the notable female Bible characters chosen as symbols and representations of the five degrees were, said Brother Morris – illustrations of four great examples of womanly virtue; Jephthah’s Daughter, given the name of Adah, brilliantly represents the proper respect to the binding force of a vow; Ruth beautifully illustrates devotion and loyalty to the memory of a loved one and wholehearted consecration to religious convictions and principles; Esther represents the commendable virtue of taking a risk to assist family and friends in their hour of need and Martha illustrates the value of undeviating faith in the hour of trial and sorrow. The fifth, and last of the characters representative of notable principles, was prepared to stand up for beliefs and was famed for her genuine piety and loyalty to the fundamentals of Christianity. Electa (the elect lady) is numbered among the martyrs of the first century A.D. and movingly illustrates the principles of patience and submission under persecution, ill-treatment and even death, for a noble cause.
The formation and subsequent rapid growth of the Order of the Eastern Star brought into organisational form the means of providing for the welfare of the wives, mothers, daughters, widows and sisters of Master Masons.
The Order of the Eastern Star sustains an important and independent relationship with the Masonic Fraternity. Freemasonry is not identical with the Order of the Eastern Star and the Order of the Eastern Star is not Freemasonry, nor does it profess or wish to be.
In due process of time, the Supreme Grand Chapter of Scotland was formed, with authority to control and expand the order in Scotland, England, Ireland and the whole of the British Empire overseas. A concordat or treaty agreement, adopted by the General Grand Chapter and by a convention of Scottish Chapters held in Glasgow, in 1904, stated: The Grand Chapter of Scotland (later known as The Supreme Grand Chapter of Scotland) shall have supreme and exclusive jurisdiction of Great Briton, Ireland and the whole British dominions (excepting only those upon the Continent of America) and that a Supreme or General Grand Chapter of the British Empire shall be formed as soon as Chapters are instituted there in and it seems expedient to do so.
In addition to fulfilling the aims and objectives for which the Order was established, the members have always supported local and state-wide charitable appeals, and worked extensively for relief funds set up during depression years and World War II. Assistance has been given to the victims of State and National disasters over the years.
Because of their larger membership, Chapters in New South Wales and Queensland have been able to make provision for care for the elderly and in both states have become proud owners of buildings (Star Gardens for the Aged) for that purpose, as well as, in New South Wales, purchasing occupancy of units within the Frank Whiddon Masonic Homes organisation.
The Order of the Eastern Star is non denominational and non-sectarian and requires only the belief in a Supreme Being. Its ritual and Ceremonies, centring in and radiating from the five notable feminine characters of the Bible, are designed to make the most profound and lasting impressions upon all to whom they are addressed.