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The status of women within Mediaeval trades was largely dependent on the local interpretation of femme sole, the legal term for a single woman.

This was usually the widow of a tradesman, who was permitted to continue her husband's business after his death, and often established in the rights and privileges of his trade guild or company.

There are several concordant bodies in the United States which admit the wives and female relatives of Freemasons.

The Dutch Order of Weavers admits only the wives, while in the American orders the men and women share in the ritual.

In 1774, the lodges of adoption came under the jurisdiction of the Grand Orient de France, and the published regulations show a system of four degrees: Further degrees came and went, with a ten-degree system evolving at the end of the Eighteenth century.

The idea spread widely in Europe, but never appeared in England.

In Anglo-American Freemasonry, neither mixed nor all-female lodges are officially recognised, although unofficial relations can be cordial, with premises sometimes shared.

Women in Mediaeval and Renaissance Europe were legally assumed to be subject to their fathers, then to their husbands after marriage.

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A few women were involved in Freemasonry before the 18th century; however the first printed constitutions of the Premier Grand Lodge of England appeared to bar them from the Craft forever.

During the 1740s, lodges of adoption began to appear.

Attached to a regular (men only) lodge, wives and female relatives of the masons would be admitted to a parallel system of degrees, with a similar moral undertone to the authentic rite of the lodge. In 1747, the Chevalier Beauchaine began the Order of Woodcutters (Ordre des Fendeurs), with rites supposedly based on an early version of the Carbonari.

18th-century British lodges and their American offshoots remained male only.

In the late 1800s, rites similar to adoption emerged in the United States, allowing masons and their female relatives to participate in ritual together.

Only one lodge, Cosmos, holds to the adoptive rite.

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