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Origin of Adoptive Rite Among Black Women

Updated: Sep 22


The Scrolls of Time Great Women of the Order of Eastern Star The Trust of the Sparrow The Strength of the Eagle The Peace of the Dove

Researched, compiled and written by Past Grand Worthy Matron Jessie Mae Ayers

The basis of this historic achievement follows the lines laid down in print by Prince Hall, the founder of the first organized body of Black Free and Accepted Masons in America, and the rejection he and his colleagues met in obtaining a charter for African Lodge No. 459 in Boston, Massachusetts.

These pages in the history of the Adoptive Rite Among Black Women also focuses on the dreams of Grand Master William H. Myers, Union Grand Lodge, Jurisdiction of the District of Columbia and Mrs. Georgiana Thomas. In 1874, Grand Master Myers found himself wrestling with the sign posts of the time. There were many who were opposed to any decisions to grant permission for the establishment of the Adoptive Rite for Black Women in the District of Columbia. He finally granted permission for Sir Thornton A. Jackson 33° and his colleagues to establish the first Chapter of Adoptive Rite, Order of the Eastern Star Among Black Women in United States. During this same time frame, Mrs. Georgiana Thomas, a lady of color, nurtured her dream and brainchild of Queen Esther Chapter becoming a reality. All of these dreamers had one thing in common. Each had to struggle with the "Cross Winds of Change."

August 10, 1874, Sir Thorton Andrew Jackson 33° received the several degrees of the Rite of Adoption of the Order of the Eastern Star from Brother C. B. Case, a Deputy and agent of Illustrious Robert Macoy 33°, Supreme Patron of the Rite of Adoption of the World. In addition Sir Thornton A. Jackson 33° also received a letter from Brother C. B. Case granting him the authority to establish chapters of the Order of Eastern Star among eligible Black women. In Audience to the authority granted by Grand Master William H. Myers, Union Grand Lodge, Jurisdiction of the District of Columbia, Sir Thornton Andrew Jackson 33° established the first Eastern Star Chapter among Black Women in the United Sates. On Wednesday, December 1, 1874, Mrs. Georgiana Henson Thomas opened the doors of her home at 708 0 Street, N.W., Washington D.C. and witnessed the establishment of Queen Esther Chapter No. 1. The first chapter of the Adoptive Rite among ladies of color. The first Worthy Matron was Sister Martha Welch and the first Worthy Patron was Brother Thornton A. Jackson.

In the avalanches of remembrances are many great women whose names appear on the scrolls of time, leaving legacies for future generation to emulate. In the exercise of high authority they were guided by the purist principals of justice and moderation. Such was the commitment of Georgiana Henson Thomas. Like Harriet Tubman, "The Moses of the Underground Railroad", Georgiana worked with the underground railroad at the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church located at 15th and M Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C. She was one of the sixty-three (63) founders of the Plymouth Congregational Church where she served as a Deaconess until her death. She served as the first Grand Royal Matron of the Grand Chapter of the District of Columbia from 1892-1894. Georgiana Henson Thomas also served as the Grand Representative near the Grand East of Illinois in 1904. She passed in July 1941 at the age of ninety-nine.

The Adoptive Rite, Order of the Eastern Star has experienced phenomenal growth since its inception on Wednesday, December 1, 1874. Today there are forty-four (44) Grand Chapters dispersed throughout the United States, Canada, Liberia, and the Commonwealth of the Bahamas and the recently formed Grand Chapter of the Caribbean. All of these Grand Chapters are basking under the umbrella of the Grand Lodge in whose jurisdiction they were organized. History has recorded and indicates there now exist three thousand five hundred ninety-three (3,593) subordinates chapters and approximately one hundred eighty thousand seven hundred and nine (180,709) in membership all within the frame work of these Grand Chapters. The first Grand, Chapter of the Adoptive Rite was organized in 1880 at Washington, North Carolina. The first Grand Matron was Sister Julia Foy and the first Grand Patron was Bishop J.W. Hood. This Grand Chapter was followed closely by a Grand Chapter organized in Tennessee. Another great event evolved in Boston, Massachusetts one hundred twenty-five (125) years after the founding of African Lodge No. 459 by Prince Hall. How ironic it was that the Conference of Grand Chapters, Order of the Eastern Star was perfected on September 11-12, 1907 in the same state There seemed to have been a spirit or aura beaming from the attendees as they assembled an mingled at the first conference. The following Grand Chapters were represented: Arkansas California, District of Columbia, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New England, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Tennessee. The following officers were elected: Kittie Terrell, Illinois, Supreme Grand Royal Matron; Walden Brooks, New England, Supreme Grand Royal Patron; Viola Hart, Georgia. Supreme Associate Matron and Addie Duffie, Maryland, Supreme Grand Treasurer. The conference was severally style First it was the Supreme United Grand Chapter, Order of the Eastern Star. In 1910, the name was changed to the Interstate Conference of Grand Chapters. In 1924, the name was changed' the International Conference of Grand Chapters. The International Conference of Grand Chapters was officially dismantled by the Prince Hall Conference of Grand Masters in Colorado Springs, Colorado in May, 1976. The conference is now known as the Prince Hall Conference of Grand Chapters, Order of the Eastern Star. The current presiding officers are Grand Worthy Matron Valda A. Lewis, Jurisdiction of Indiana, Conference Chairman; Grand Worthy Patron Odis Ward, Jurisdiction of Nevada, Conference Co-Chairman. All fronts of the Order of Eastern Star are continuing to help humanity through their scholarships, giving to many charitable causes and other humanitarian acts which demonstrate caring and sharing. The order continues to move forward with a great faith, yet remembering that faith without deeds is naught.

Grand Chapters Order of the Eastern Star Prince Hall Affiliation

Jurisdiction / Chapter / Year and Location of Chapter

1. North Carolina / Grand Chapter / 1880 at Washington, N.C.

2. Tennessee / Excelsior Grand Chapter / August 31, 1881 at Nashville

3. California / Gold State Grand Chapter / December, 1882

4. Kansas / Prince Hall Grand Chapter / 1883-1884

5. Indiana / Prince Hall Grand Chapter / October 25, 1888

6. Arkansas / Royal Grand Chapter / 1885 at Augusta

7. Kentucky / Cecelia Dunlap Grand Chapter / August 13, 1885

8. Connecticut / Prince Hall Grand Chapter / 1888 at Washington, N.C. Instituted November 23, 1894

9. Illinois / Eureka Grand Chapter / 1889 at Chicago

10. Michigan / Prince Hall Grand Chapter / August 30, 1889 at Chatman, Ontario, Canada

11. Ontario / Prince Hall Grand Chapter / August 30, 1889 at Chatman, Ontario, Canada

12. Mississippi / Bathsheba Grand Chapter / July 4, 1890 at Vicksburg, Mississippi

13. Missouri / Harmony Grand Chapter / December 26, 1890 at St Louis, Missouri

14. District of Columbia / Georgiana Thomas Grand Chapter / May 24, 1892

15. Florida / Jerusalem Grand Chapter / January 15, 1893 at of Jacksonville, Florida

16. Alabama / Mizpah Grand Chapter / July 21, 1894

17. New England / Grand Chapter / Instituted November 23, 1894

18. New York / Eureka Grand Chapter / October 18, 1895 at New York City

19. Maryland / Myra Grand Chapter / November 26, 1896

20. Ohio / Amaranth Grand Chapter / August 3, 1899 at Chicago, Illinois

21. Georgia / Prince Hall Grand Chapter / August 29, 1899 at Savannah, Georgia

22. Washington / Prince Hall Grand Chapter / July 11, 1900 at Tacoma, Wash. Institute July 17, 1925

23. Virginia / Grand Chapter of Virginia / November 28, 1901 Richmond, Virginia

24. Oklahoma / Queen Bathsheba Grand Chapter / 1908 at Wagnor, Oklahoma

25. South Carolina / Prince Hall Grand Chapter / June 15, 1901

26. New Jersey / Oziel Grand Chapter / Instituted June 24, 1913

27. West Virginia / Electa Prince Hall Grand Chapter / January 14, 1914

28. Pennsylvania / Deborah Grand Chapter / July 17, 1916 at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

29. Arizona / Prince Hall Grand Chapter / July 11, 1921 at Phoenix, Arizona

30. Nebraska / Amaranthus Grand Chapter / October 15, 1921

31. Delaware/ St. Mathews's Grand Chapter / March 15, 1922 at Wilmington, Delaware

32. Colorado / Columbine Grand Chapter / July 24, 1922

33. New Mexico / Prince Hall Grand Chapter / June 1925 at Albuquerque, New Mexico

34. Louisiana / Esther Grand Chapter / January 12, 1938 at New Orleans, Louisiana

35. Massachusetts / Prince Hall Grand Chapter / September 9, 1944

36. Oregon / Prince Hall Grand Chapter / June 26, 1961

37. Bahamas / Prince Hall Grand Chapter / 1964

39. Alaska / Prince Hall Grand Chapter / June 10, 1972 at Anchorage, Alaska

40. Rhode Island / Prince Hall Grand Chapter / 1980

41. Nevada / Desert Rose Grand Chapter / November 21, 1981

42. Caribbean / Rita-G Grand Chapter / April 24, 1996 Barbados, West Indies

43. Texas / Norris Wright Cuney Grand Chapter / November 9, 1996 at Houston, Texas

44. Iowa* / Prince Hall Grand Chapter

45. Minnesota* / Prince Hall Grand Chapter

46. Wisconsin* / Unity Grand Chapter

*On-going research for these jurisdictions.

It is a fact that without knowledge of one's history there can be no appreciable future. The illuminaries whose deeds and contributions highlighted on the pages of time in each jurisdiction end the Conference of Grand Chapters are rich in history and each should be proud to be "Primus Interpares" (First Among Equals). It is evident they served with zest and zeal moving onward and upward carrying the standard high to brighter horizons. They skillfully orchestrated achievable and infinite goals on the voyage of life.

The many themes of the Conference of Grand Chapters that have come down on the streams of time were easily comprehended because of the oasis of thought transmitted from one to another. These themes have been varied throughout the years yet each brought forth clarity of purpose. Histories are filled with accounts of explanations of causes and effects of great women of the order; Matriarchs who kept vigil pulling together to make things happen. Their many deeds of incomprehensible valor and self-sacrifice for masonry and their crowning achievements are evident for all humankind to see. If they could make the difference in a transcendent moment in time they made that difference. The Adoptive Rite form 1874 to the present moment in time continues to glitter with proven credibility.


Past Grand Worthy Matron Jessie M. Ayers is a member of Miriam Chapter No. 4 Order of Eastern Star, Georgiana Thomas Grand Chapter, Jurisdiction of the District of Columbia. She served as Grand Worthy Matron in 1989 and was Grand Historian of the Georgiana Thomas Grand Chapter from 1971-1991. She is currently serving her fifth year as Chairman, History Committee of the Prince Hall Conference of Grand Chapters.

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