Montreal Gazette, 5 March 1878, page 2


The Only Female Mason

The Hon Elizabeth St Leger was the only female who was ever initiated into the mystery of Freemasonry.  She had two degrees – the first and the second – conferred on her.  As it may seem interesting to the general reader, we give the story as to how Miss St Leger obtained this honor, promising that the information comes from the best of sources.  Lord Doneraile, Miss St Leger’s father, was a very zealous mason, held a warrant, and occasionally opened lodge at Doneraile House, his sons and some intimate friends assisting; and it is said that never were Masonic duties more rigorously performed than by the brethren of No 150, the number of their warrant.

It appears that previous to the initiation of a gentleman to the first degree of Masonry, Miss St Leger, who was a young girl, happened to be in an apartment adjoining the room generally used as a lodge room, but whether the young lady was there by design, or merely accident, we cannot confidently state.  The room at the time was undergoing some alteration; among other things, the wall was considerably reduced in one part for the making a saloon.  The young lady having heard the voices of Freemasons, and bring incited by the curiosity natural to all to see this mystery, so long and so secretly locked up from public view, had the courage to pick a brick from the wall with her scissors, and thus witness the first two steps of the ceremony.

Curiosity gratified, fear at once took possession of her mind, and those who understand this passage well know what the feeling of any person must be who could unlawfully behold that ceremony; let them judge what were the feelings of a young girl under such extraordinary circumstances.  There was on mode of escape, except through the room where the concluding part of the second step was still being solemnized at the far end, and the room was a very large one.  Miss St Leger had resolution enough to attempt her escape that way, and with light and trembling steps glided along unobserved, laid her hand on the handle of the door, and opened it, but before her stood to her dismay, a grim tiler with his long sword unsheathed.

A shriek that pierced through the apartments alarmed the members of the lodge, who all rushed to the door, and finding that Miss St Leger had been in the room during the ceremony, resolved, it is said, in the paroxysm of their rage, to put the fair spectatress to death; but at the moving and earnest supplication of her youngest brother, her life was spared, on condition of her going through the two remaining steps of the solemn ceremony she had unlawfully witnessed.  This she consented to, and they conducted the beautiful and terrified young lady through those trials which are sometimes more than enough for masculine resolution, little thinking they were taking into the bosom of their craft a member that would reflect a lustre on the annals of Masonry.

Miss St Leger was a cousin to General Anthony St Leger, who instituted the interesting race and celebrated Doncaster St Leger Stakes.  Eventually she married Richard Aldworth, Esq of Newmarket, a member of a highly honourable and ancient family.  Whenever a benefit was given at any of the theatres at Dublin or Cork, for the Masonic Female Orphan Asylum, Mrs Aldworth walked at the head of the Freemason’s with her apron and other insignia of Freemasonry and sat in the front of the stage-box.  The house was always crowded on these occasions.  The portrait of this estimable woman is in the room of almost every lodge in Ireland.