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World Conference on Fraternalism, Freemasonry, and History (WCFFH)


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World Conferences on Fraternalism, Freemasonry, and History
Including Ritual, Secrecy, and Civil Society
Next events:
WCFFH 2018:
Not Men Only: Sisters, Sororities, and Ritualistic Societies
 May 17 - 18, 2018
 The Historic Whittemore House, Washington DC
 WCFFH 2019:
 1000 Degrees: Constructing Fraternal Rites
June 13 - 15, 2019
The Bibliothèque Nationale - Paris, France
Recent event: 
May 26 - 27, 2017
The Bibliothèque Nationale - Paris, France
Videos on day 1 and day 2 of the 2017 conference by the Grande Loge Nationale Française
The World Conferences on Fraternalism are held alternatively in Paris (2019, 2021) in odd numbered years and in Washington in even numbered years. (2018, 2020). The Paris conferences are held at the French national library, the Bibliothèque nationale de France, and the Washington conferences at the historic Whittemore House. 
The conferences have themes but they are not exclusionary of other topics. For example, the 2017 Paris conference examined the career of the Chevalier Ramsay, a famous 18th century figure in French fraternalism, but there were many papers on other themes. We welcome papers on all aspects of fraternalism and its ties with social capital. The papers on freemasonry should not foreclose papers on many other aspects of the subject, including gender, college fraternities, clubs like Rotary, African-American topics, guilds, labor unions. The conferences gain from having a variety of subjects discussed. The committee are also open to presentations of art, dance, folk music and others if related.
We are glad to offer complimentary registration thanks to sponsors, but we do need your registrations so we can provide adequate catering and seating
Papers are both published in the Ritual, Secrecy, and Civil Society journal, and in books by Westphalia Press. Simultaneous translation is offered at the French conference. Both Paris and Washington are preceded by workshops to which scholars are invited to consider original materials and problems in fraternal reserach.
A theme of the May 2018 conference in Washington will be women's fraternalism. A theme of the June 2019  conference in Paris will be the origin and creation of degrees and rites in fraternalism.
The 2018 conference will take special note of "The 200th anniversary of the Birth on August 31, 1818 of the unique Robert Morris, the Masonic and Eastern Star laureate"
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Morris will be remembered by some as the prolyfic Presbiterian hymn writer, notably of the much loved gospel "Gaililee". His enduring fame is as Masonic writer and author of the original ritual of the Order of the Eastern Star, worldwide fraternity and charity that includes Freemasons and is primarily composed of their female relatives and friends.
The world headquarters of the Star is the celebrated Belmont mansion, which is within sight from the steps of the historic Whittemore House where our conference sessions will take place:
A special speaker will be Dr. Nancy Theiss. She is the Executive Director of the Oldham Historical Society. Its campus includes the church where Morris gave a number of signigicant sermons and lectures, and she has helped lead a multi million dollar campaign to preserve and enlarge the society's role in Kentucky history and research.
Dr. Theiss has published several books, numerous articles, and writes a column for the popular Louisville Courier-Journal as well as collecting oral histories in the Living Treasures Program. She and her husband live near La Grange, Kentucky, site of the Oldham historical park and near Dr. Rob Morris' tomb and home.
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The title of Dr. Theiss' address encapsulates one of the conference themes, that of women's fraternalism, and is "A Beacon of Light: How Rob Morris Gave Credibility to the Women's Movement"
She remarks: "Cajoled and nicknamed the Petticoat Mason, Rob Morris opened the door for women into the light of Freemasonry when he created the Order of the Eastern Star in 1850.  The time at which Morris created the Eastern Star Degrees was ripe for the women's movement.  It allowed, in a conservative fashion, for women to belong to an organization with traditional and respected history, while giving them a voice.  Morris had created a system of degrees that could be duplicated and passed on easily enough through ritual.  The order was established as an androgynous branch of Freemasonry where both men and women were members.  The timing was right for attracting women to a fraternity that was well respected and established in the Masonic Lodges that were part of the villages and townships growing across Antebellum America."
A reviewer describes a recent and unique book based on the letters uncovered by by Dr. Theiss: "This book was written about the life of Rob Morris (1818-1888) based upon a collection of over 200 letters composed by Morris and members of his family. The letters were salvaged by Marjorie Morgan Applegate and her first husband Davis "Zeke" Morgan. Marjorie and Zeke, both members of Masonic orders, cared for Ethel Morris , whose husband, LeRoy Morris, was the great-grandson of Dr. Rob Morris. The letters had been passed down through the family line. When Morris began these letters with his wife, Charlotte, he instructed her to save and bind the letters so they could read them in their old age. 

The letters in this collection were transcribed by the author and for the most part, kept in their original vernacular and vocabulary. The misspellings that were kept, gave context and insight to the character and background of the people who wrote the letters... Morris's early years, as he pursued his Masonic career while trying to support his wife and young children, provided a perspective about travel, family relationships and day to day life in the antebellum south. Many of the issues regarding education, the women's movement, pioneer living and the widening fracture between the northern and southern states are reflected in the family letters."
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A look at past conferences on this site will help in  answering questions about avs, panel possibilities, hotels, and other queries.
Paul J. Rich, President of the Policy Studies Organization, Westphalia Press
Pierre MollierEditor-in-Chief of the Ritual, Secrecy & Civil Society journal
Guillermo de los Reyes, University of Houston
WCFFH 2015 conference videos:
Convened by the journal Ritual, Secrecy, and Civil Society, in cooperation with the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, France, the second World Conference on Fraternalism, Freemasonry, and History: Research in Ritual, Secrecy, and Civil Society (La Conférence Mondiale sur la Fraternité, la Franc-maçonnerie et l'Histoire, recherche sur les notions de rituel, de secret et leur rapport à la Société civile), focused on the study of the lasting influence of the Enlightenment, ritual, secrecy, and civil society vis-à-vis the dynamics of scholarship around the world. The conference explored how civil society, social capital, secrecy, and ritual have been important elements during different episodes of local and world histories, and indeed still are. The WCFFH is a part of the PSO's support of research into associations, civility, and the role of non governmental organizations in democracy.
At the same time in alternate years (2018 & 2020) the PSO hosts a conference in Washington on fraternalism.
PSO encourages 365 day conferences, those that interact and network between actual meetings and where early postings of drafts encourage ongoing discussion. We try hard to provide continuity so those who attend can mark their calendars with confidence. Our conferences, like our journals, are central to our role in dissemination and conversation.
No charge is made for registration for the conference, but registration is requested to plan for catering, headsets, and other conference needs. For information and registration please contact PSO Executive Director, Daniel Gutierrez, at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The conference has a general interest in fraternalism and is not confined to Freemasonry, nor is it under the auspices of any lodge. Rather, it is supported by the National Library of France, the Policy Studies Organization, and the American Public University.
The logo for the WCFFH series will approporiately be the Masonic Symbol of Point in a Circle, represented here in the painting, The Patron Saints and the Point Within the Circle, by Roy Mandell and Margaret Schmidt (Oil on canvas, 2014. Commissioned by John Mercer Lodge in Omaha Nebraska, Master of the lodge at the time: Brother David Long) 
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The amount of meaningful research into fraternalism now going on in Europe is unparalleled in quality and extent, and Paris is a center. With the return of the Masonic archives looted by the Nazis and then kept for many years by the Russian secret services, the already remarkable archival resources have grown to extraordinary dimensions.
International Commission for Fraternalism Studies: Guillermo De Los Reyes (Conference Chair- University of Houston), Paul Rich (George Mason University), Daniel Guiterrez-Sandoval (Policy Studies Organization), Pierre Mollier (Editor, Ritual, Secrecy, and Civil Society), Alain Bauer (National Conservatory for Arts and Crafts), Brent Morris (Scottish Rite Supreme Council), Yasha Beresiner (InterCol London),  Guillermo Izabal (PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP).
Sponsors for the World Conferences on Fraternalism, Freemasonry, and History...
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