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Secret women's business: The Order of the Amaranth

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ABC Western Victoria

Secret women's business

16 November 2005

Reporter: Fiona Parker

Have you heard of the Order of the Amaranth?

They've been described as "Freemasonry for Ladies," and yes, there is a secret handshake and a secret password.

Marie Cameron has been a member of the Order for the past 40 years. She's a past Grand Royal Matron of the group and currently sits on the Advancement Committee of the Order of the Amaranth. She recently came to Horsham to drum up support to form a group in the Wimmera.

But if you think you can just wander into a meeting and learn the secret handshake, think again. You have to be related to a Freemason in order to join. "The Order of the Amaranth is part of the Masonic family. The men have to be a Mason and the ladies have to be related directly to a Mason," says Marie. "They can be a mother, daughter, niece or sister (of a Mason)."

There's not much known about the ceremonies that take place behind closed doors, as the group is very secretive, but while Marie isnít giving too much away, she can describe it to some extent.

"The Order of the Amaranth is part of the Masonic family, but open to men and women, though the ladies have their say. They are the important ones. It's a fraternal order. We meet socially, raise money for charities and have a lot of fun together. We call our meetings 'courts,' and the leader's title is 'Royal Matron.' She wears a crown."

While there's only one crown worn, all the other ladies must dress up in their finest when attending meetings. "The ladies have to wear formal evening wear. That's floor-length evening dresses, long white gloves and evening shoes."

Marie has two wardrobes full of evening dresses. "I have one ordinary street dress and I have about 25 evening dresses." She says she enjoys dressing up. "It's a beautiful order. It's very majestic. I just feel very grand and very queenly, and very special."

And what about that handshake? Marie won't even describe it for us.

But is it obvious when you're shaking hands that it's not a normal handshake? "It would be. It would be. But we just don't get around shaking hands that way. It's just kept to the meeting."

I'm not going to get it out of you, am I? "No you're not. It's secret women's business."

Further Reading:

Freemasonry in Australia & New Zealand