The average Mason spends a great deal of time away from his wife and family for Masonic functions and dinners. On many occasions the Mason’s wife is left at home while he attends Masonic meetings. Some Masonic Lodges have begun to realize that Masonic Ladies play a very important role in the Masonic way of life. These Lodges are slowly beginning to provide functions for their Masonic families, more especially the Mason’s Lady.
One such event is the “Ladies At The Table", a public event, not ritual of any type; however, it does come under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge.
Ladies At The Table is a special dinner of five courses and seven toasts. The objective of the "Ladies at The Table" dinner is to provide the best possible entertainment and dinner a Mason’s Lady could desire. There is a script to follow, as well as rules and regulations established by the Grand Lodge, but the toasts are made to those ladies selected by the Lodge itself!
The selection of the ladies to be toasted is taken very seriously. Although there are only six names to be considered, they do reflect on the womanhood of our nation. Therefore we must be careful in whom we select. Religion and politics should not be considered as reasons for a toast. Every community, State, or nation has a large group of women who have taken part in the betterment of humanity. Once you have determined each woman to be toasted, a short history is written to show the reasons as to why she has been selected by the Lodge. It requires a great deal of research, but it is well worth it in more ways than you can count.
"Ladies At The Table" is nothing new, just revised. “The Encyclopedia of Free-masonry,” by Albert G. Mackey and Charles T. McClenachan and revised by Edward L. Hawkins and William J.Hughan, published by The Masonic History Company of Chicago, New York, and London, copyrighted 1927 provides us with the following history of a Ladies At The Table in France.
In France, about the middle of the 18th century, a group (in the French Rite,) was established, functioning parallel to Masonry, known as “Adoptive Masonry.” The first of these Lodges, of which we have any notice, was established in Paris, in the year 1760, by Count de Bernouville.
Another was instituted at Nimeguen, in Holland, in 1774, over which the
Prince of Waldeck and Princess of Orange pre-sided. There were basically four degrees in Adoptive Masonry, the first being: Apprentice (or Female Apprentice); Compagnone (or Craftswoman); Maitresse (or Mistress); and Parfaite Maconne (or Perfect Mason.)
The fourth degree, being the summit of the Rite of Adoption, is furnished with a “Table Lodge,” or ceremony of the banquet, which immediately followed the closing of the Lodge and which of course, adds much to the social pleasure and nothing to the character of the Rite.
As in regular Lodges of the French Rite, the members always use symbolic language by which they designate the various implements of the table and the different articles of food and drink, calling for in-stance, the knife “Swords,” the forks “Pickaxes,” the dishes “materials,” and bread “Rough Ashlar;” the Lodge room was called “Eden,” the doors “Barriers,” the minutes a “Ladder,” a wine glass was styled a “Lamp,” and its contents “Oil” . . . water being “White Oil” and wine being “Red Oil.” To fill your glass is “To trim your Lamp,” to drink is “To extinguish your Lamp,” and many other eccentric expressions.
Much taste, and in some instances, magnificence, were displayed in the decorations of the Lodge rooms of the Adoptive Rite. The apartment was separated by curtains into different divisions. Each division represented a continent, the entrance being called Europe, the left side America, the right side Africa, and the Head Table was known as Asia. As all things come to pass, this special dinner and evening was set aside, no longer to be. (The French Revolution played a big part in its ending.) We do know that Ben Franklin did attend at least one of these dinners during his time in France.”
There is a strong possibility this special Rite of Adoption dinner was attended by many young Englishmen soon to be sent to Ireland, to be trained, for two years, as British Officers and hence the birth of the Masonic Table Lodge. (As with many early customs, this one too, does not have a clear historical record.)
In our present day, “Ladies At The Table,” is not Adoptive Masonry in any form or intent. The dinner is supported by a Lodge of Masons to show Honor and Respect to the Ladies. It also provides a setting to invite non-Masonic guests and community leaders to see what Masonry is all about .
As stated in the ceremony “toasts are given to Ladies who have given of themselves to the improvement and need of others.”