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Cécile Révauger,
Professeur des Universités,
UFR d’anglais,
Université Michel de Montaigne

 

Je suis née à Bordeaux en 1955, j’ai fait mes études secondaires au lycée François Magendie de Bordeaux et supérieures à l’Université de Bordeaux III.  Le concours des IPES qui existait alors (pré-recrutement au métier de professeur dans l’enseignement secondaire) m’a permis de vivre dans un relatif confort mes années d’étudiante. J’ai  été reçue aux concours du CAPES et de l’agrégation  en 1977. Enseignante dans un collège d’Argenteuil, puis dans divers collèges et lycées des régions lyonnaise et grenobloise, j’ai  soutenu une thèse de troisième cycle en 1983  sur le conte oriental en Angleterre, ce qui m’a permis d’être recrutée comme professeur agrégé à l’Université Stendhal-Grenoble III en 1985, puis comme maître de conférences dans cette même université en 1987. Mes recherches sur le XVIIIe siècle anglais m’ont incitée à étudier la franc-maçonnerie, née à l’époque des Lumières, de Locke et de Newton. En 1984, il fallait pour cela relever un triple défi : d’une part il s’agissait d’un domaine  largement inexploré par la communauté universitaire et qui semblait donc un peu ésotérique et suspect, d’autre part les archives maçonniques n’étaient pas aussi disponibles qu’elles le sont aujourd’hui, les Grandes Loges anglo-saxonnes faisant à l’époque preuve d’une certaine réserve à l’égard des recherches ayant un caractère public, enfin le chercheur en question était une femme…une bizarrerie pour la plupart des spécialistes britanniques et américains de la franc-maçonnerie … alors qu’aujourd’hui les bibliothèques maçonniques m’ouvrent largement leurs portes et que  les conservateurs font preuve de la plus grande bienveillance à mon égard, comme à l’égard de tous les chercheurs, pourvu que leur travail soit réellement scientifique.

Une bourse Fulbright de la Commission franco-américaine m’a permis d’effectuer des recherches dans les bibliothèques  de Boston et de Washington DC, sans oublier celle de Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Située au cœur du pays du maïs, elle aida sans nul doute son fondateur à tromper l’ennui et rassemble l’une des plus vastes collection d’archives maçonniques . Je pus ainsi rédiger ma thèse d’Etat, « La franc-maçonnerie en Grande –Bretagne et aux Etats-Unis au XVIIIè siècle : 1717-1813 », soutenue à l’Université de Bordeaux III en 1987, sous la direction de Régis Ritz.  Je publiai une version abrégée de cette thèse aux Editions EDIMAF en 1990. Depuis, j’ai publié de nombreux articles consacrés à la franc-maçonnerie, un ouvrage sur les «  Anciens et les Modernes » (, c'est-à-dire  les deux Grandes Loges rivales d’Angleterre, et un livre sur la franc-maçonnerie noire aux Etats-Unis, « Noirs et francs-maçons » (2003). J’ai écrit cet ouvrage grâce à l’obtention d’une seconde bourse de recherche Fulbright qui m’a permis de travailler sur les archives des Grandes Loges noires de Prince Hall à New York et Washington DC. J’ai été nommé professeur des universités en 1990.

J’ai  mené de front recherche et enseignement, comme la plupart des universitaires français. En bonne dix-huitiémiste, je me suis toujours un peu considérée comme citoyenne du monde, et à défaut de pouvoir le sillonner autant que je désirais, j’ai trouvé beaucoup de vertus à la mobilité universitaire…j’ai donc successivement occupé des postes à l’Université de Grenoble (Stendhal-Grenoble III), de Provence (Aix-Marseille I), des Antilles et de la Guyane (en Martinique) avant de rejoindre mon Université-mère, si je puis dire, l’Université de Bordeaux III. Chaque poste m’a apporté un grand nombre de satisfactions et seul l’impérieux besoin de découvrir de nouveaux  horizons a motivé chaque  départ.  A Grenoble, j’ai occupé un poste dit « double-timbre », à l’époque des premiers IUFM, c'est-à-dire que j’enseignais à l’Université tout en exerçant les fonctions de directrice adjointe de cet IUFM pionnier, ouvert à la collaboration avec les universitaires. Ce fut une expérience enrichissante, qui me permit de lancer un certain nombre de programmes de coopération internationale et de côtoyer des milieux  sociaux variés,  des cultures professionnelles  diverses, enseignants du secondaire, anciens directeurs d’écoles normales, corps d’inspection. J’y ai acquis, je pense, quelques qualités de diplomate, à une époque, bien sûr révolue, où pédagogues fondamentalistes et universitaires récalcitrants s’affrontaient allègrement.

 Aujourd’hui je fais partie du CIBEL de Bordeaux, le Centre Interdisciplinaire Bordelais d’Etudes des Lumières, dirigé par Jean Mondot. Mes recherches actuelles, outre la franc-maçonnerie, sont consacrées aux  Lumières et  à l’historiographie des Lumières,  ainsi qu’à l’histoire de la Caraïbe anglophone,  de l’époque des sociétés de plantation à l’abolition de l’esclavage.  J’anime des séminaires de master, dirige des thèses sur le dix-huitième siècle britannique et sur la Caraïbe anglophone des XVIII  et XIXe siècles.

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Prof. Cécile Révauger

English studies

Michel de Montaigne Bordeaux III University

 

I was born in Bordeaux and was a student at Bordeaux University. I passed the “agregation”  in 1977. I first taught in secondary schools, before registering a thesis on the oriental tale in 18th century . After defending this thesis I started my academic career at Grenoble University. I switched from the oriental tale to Masonic studies as I developed a particular  interest in the 18th century and considered that Masonic lodges could only emerge in the wake of the Enlightenment. At the time studying masonry was a real challenge, first because the academic community was a bit suspicious of the validity of masonry as a scientific field to be explored as it was such an unusual subject, second because Masonic libraries themselves were suspicious and not used to giving public access to their sources, and last but not least because I was a woman, a rarity on Masonic premises  and therefore a strange scholar…Today things have totally changed of course and the curators and staff  of the main Masonic libraries in Britain and the States are extremely helpful. A Fulbright award allowed me to spend a lot of time working on Masonic archives in Boston, Washington DC and Cedar rapids, Iowa: in corn country providing such a huge  collection is  no small feat! The library of the Grand Lodge of Iowa is one of the largest Masonic libraries in the world. I defended my PHd dissertation in 1987, entitled: “ 18th century Freemasonry in and the ”. An abridged version was published  in 1990. I have produced several articles on Freemasonry since. I was appointed “professeur des Universités” in 1990. I obtained a second Fulbright Award in 1999 , which allowed me to work in New York and Washington DC libraries and write a book on black freemasonry in , Noirs et francs-maçons, published in 2003.

As a true 18th century  specialist, I have always considered myself as a “citizen of the world” and although I could not explore the world as much as I wanted to, I did my best and seized all the opportunities to apply for various positions.  This does not mean that I was unhappy with my work but simply wanted to discover a little more each time... This explains why I successively occupied academic positions at Grenoble Unversity, Université de Provence, Université des Antilles et de la Guyane (Martinique) before  coming back to Bordeaux, my home town and university. As most French scholars I have always combined teaching and research activities.

I am now a member of CIBEL (Centre Interdisciplinaire Bordelais d’Etudes des Lumières), the research centre chaired by Jean Mondot at Bordeaux University.  I  teach seminars at master level and I am currently supervising theses on 18th century and in Caribbean studies.

My current research is devoted to freemasonry, the Enlightenment and the historiography of the Enlightenment as well as Caribbean eighteenth and nineteenth century studies.

2 juin 2009 2 02 /06 /juin /2009 20:31

 

 

 

Women and freemasonry since the Enlightenment.

 

Conference organized at Bordeaux  University and Musée d’Aquitaine,

 

June 17-18- 19,  2010

By

LNS (Lumières Nature Société), Université de Bordeaux 3 sponsored by the Conseil Régional d’Aquitaine

CELFF, CNRS, Université de Paris IV Sorbonne

Laboratoire CIRTAI-IDEES, équipe de l’UMR 6228 (CNRS) Université du Havre 

Sheffield Centre for Research into Freemasonry, Université de Sheffield

Centre de recherche sur la franc-maçonnerie, FREE, Université de Bruxelles

Center for the Study of Women , UCLA

Unviersité Sapienza, Rome 

 

 

Scientific committee:

 

BURKE Janet

ISASTIA Anna Maria

JACOB Margaret

MONDOT Jean 

ONNERFORS, Andreas

PORSET, Charles

PRESCOTT, Andrew

REVAUGER Cécile

SAUNIER, Eric

SLIFKO, John

SNOEK Jan

TYSSENS, Jeffrey

 

 

 

            Today women are still largely absent from Masonic lodges. Yet few rational arguments can be summoned to account for such an  exclusion. The argument of tradition, which is the most frequently put forward, only holds for Anderson’s Constitutions as no such explicit ban against women can be found in the Old Charges. The significance of Elisabeth Aldworth St Leger’s initiation by an Irish Lodge is probably more symbolical than historical as it was a single occurrence never repeated. Yet the event was never denied by the Irish masons at the time, although it probably deterred the “brethren” from renewing the experience and mostly reinforced their convictions on the issue of female initiation. Women however did enter the lodges afterwards, first in the lodges of adoption, and later in co-masonry as well as specific female lodges.

            The lodges of adoption have sometimes been considered as a low key form of masonry, a kind of ersatz masonry meant to humour women. Yet their importance and significance should not be underplayed as Margaret Jacob and Janet Burke in particular have recently shown. The lodges of adoption which emerged in Holland and France during the Enlightenment highlight the main features of women’s commitment in those days, with the same limitations, namely the elitist and aristocratic component. Yet they conveyed some important values, let alone possibly through their rituals, and they allowed women to play an unprecedented part in the public sphere, not unlike the celebrated “French salons”.

We may wonder whether those lodges merely reflected the society of their time or whether they anticipated and even encouraged the emancipation of women. How emblematical are they of Enlightenment sociability? Quite significantly the adoption lodges lost lustre at the same time as the Enlightenment. When they emerged again as the Eastern Star in the United States in the following century they were quite different. The nineteenth century Masonic world was predominantly a male one and it would be interesting to find the reasons why. One has to wait till the end of the nineteenth century to find a female presence again in Masonic lodges with women such as Annie Besant, Madame Blavatsky, Clémence Royer or Louise Michel, sometimes in close connection with the Theosophical Society, as in the case of Annie Besant.

 

            We shall endeavour to identify the main evolutions in women’s commitment, both through co masonry, which appeared at the end of the nineteenth century and through female lodges which date back to the twentieth century only. All those women fought for equality, but some hoped to reach it alongside with men while others opted for autonomy in separate lodges. We shall try to understand those choices both in terms of structures and rituals. We shall focus on the social composition of co masonry and women’s lodges, and try to assess how far they committed themselves to the society of their time or preferred to remain discreet. Women’s’ lodges developed in some countries only, we shall try to suggest possible explanations for such disparity. Lodges and Grand Lodges as well as individual itineraries will be studied.

           

            The different factors of exclusion need to be addressed:

 

- the cultural, social and political factor. Is there a direct link between the development of co masonry and women’s lodges on the one hand and social progress, women’s emancipation and strong feminist movements in the twentieth and twenty first centuries?  Why do Scandinavian countries, which have become respectful of women’s rights, or the United Kingdom, the Suffragettes’ country which enfranchised women long before France, lag behind in terms of female initiation?

- the religious factor. How far does the religious context inform the issue of women’s initiation? Can one identify different attitudes in Catholic, Protestant, Islamic or Orthodox countries?

- the Masonic factor : the rift  between English speaking freemasonry and “liberal” freemasonry dates back to 1877, when the Grand Orient de France decided to grant complete liberty of conscience to its members  instead of imposing a belief in the Supreme being. Curiously enough the issue of women’s admission into freemasonry has also been a dividing one ever since that time. English speaking Grand Lodges and their affiliates exclude women, whereas “liberal” ones accept the idea of initiation, even if the statement needs to be qualified for the latter.

 

            Several levels of exclusion can be identified today : women can either be considered as unfit for initiation, which is still officially the case in the United Kingdom,  the USA and in all the Grand Lodges which pay allegiance to the United Grand Lodge of England and in the Prince Hall Grand Lodges, or their presence can be accepted and encouraged but in separate organizations, not considered as Masonic but meant to enhance the male lodges through their charity work: this is the case of the Eastern Star chapters. As to the Women Freemasons, they are still deprived of official recognition by the United Grand Lodge of England. Finally, the “liberal” Grand Lodges are themselves divided on the issue of women’s admission into the lodges. Some have opted for co masonry; others have put the admission of women on the agenda, while others reject the very notion.

            How far can one speak of Masonic universalism, how far does gender inform the Masonic issue? Our purpose is twofold. We shall address the problem of women’s exclusion under its various guises and try to uncover some of the motivations, and we shall also concentrate on the specificity of female freemasonry both in time and space, from the earliest lodges to the modern ones, in Europe, Asia and the Americas. Conversely we shall wonder how feminist criticism has viewed women’s freemasonry, from the lodges of adoption to contemporary lodges. We welcome different approaches, and would like the historical and geographical scopes to be broad enough to allow for a better understanding of differences, common points and evolutions.

 

 

Call for papers

Abstracts of proposals for papers with a short CV (a total of about 2000
characters) should be sent  to Cécile Révauger before September 15,  2009.
cecile.revauger@u-bordeaux3.fr

                  

                       

 

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