Born: Wednesday, 24 May 1916
Died: Thursday, 22 April 1993
Helen Wycherly was Grand Commander of American Co-Masonry, a Poet, and a Theosophist.
The Very Illustrious Brother Helen Wycherly is perhaps one of the most diligent servants in the history of Co-Masonry. Though next to nothing is know about her early life, her time serving as the 4th Most Puissant Grand Commander of American Co-Masonry (now Universal Co-Masonry) saved the order from destruction by the forces of entropy and put it on the path to a new, bright future it now enjoys.
Born in the small town of Winchester, Kentucky on May 24th, 1916, Helen Wycherly’s childhood is shrouded in mystery. We only know the names of her parents: Ben Robert and Lucie Clifton Jones Owen, and that as a young woman, she was a nurse living and working in Santa Barbara, California. She married a man named James Wycherly, a fellow Co-Mason.
Bro. Wycherly was initiated into Sirius Lodge, no. 556, on Jan 26th, 1940, passed on May 10th, 1940, and raised on November 8th, 1940, at the age of 24. She quickly gained a reputation as a competent ritualist and effective leader, being appointed as the head of many Masonic bodies and districts in California and the Great Lakes area, as well as being made order wide “Instructor of Ceremonial Work” in 1967. It was this reputation, and these skills she developed and honed, which most likely made her Bertha William’s first choice for her successor as Most Puissant Grand Commander.
After her selection by Williams, Wycherly was confirmed by the Supreme Council in Paris to be the next Grand Commander of the American Federation. Taking office in January 1968 over an American Federation losing Lodges and membership as older members passed away and no new members joined, Wycherly set herself the task of a revival.
Co-Masonry is a fraternal body committed to the same principles and purposes as Freemasonry and is indeed a branch of the Masonic tree, a branch which the tree in various ways tries to disown, but which nevertheless claims the same ancestry and rights to function in the name of Freemasonry. It differs from the established, ‘segregated’ body in two important ways: It is International ... and it opens the doors of Ancient Freemasonry to qualified applicants without distinction of sex or race or religions.
Bro. Wycherly was a determined individual, and she soldiered through her first four years as Grand Commander. Finances were squared; rental properties were rented; if a Brother was found to not be up to their duty, he was replaced. Wycherly quickly turned a sinking ship into a floating one, with membership starting to grow again, and Lodges holding on to their spaces and membership, with renewed energy to find new candidates to be initiated.
After her divorce, Wycherly was in rough economic circumstances, however, seeing her constant selfless efforts on behalf of the federation, many Brothers donated to her money for travel and allowed her to sleep in their homes when she did. She got to know the membership very well because of this and became a beloved figure. Throughout her first few years as Grand Commander, she had two of the great Past Grand Commanders to call on, The Very Illustrious Brother Edith Armour and her immediate predecessor, The Very Illustrious Brother Bertha Williams.
In 1974, she also took an important legal step: she reincorporated the American Federation of Human Rights as a legal entity, something which had lapsed due to the lack of care for finances displayed by previous administrations. This re-incorporation would prove to be prophetic and would grant victory in the American Federation’s split from the Supreme Council in Paris, 20 years later.
I am deeply conscious of the honor and privilege of serving the Co-Masonic Order in this capacity, though from an objective point of view as a critical individual member I might wish some more able Craftsman with more impressive qualifications might have been chosen. Nevertheless, I have accepted the appointment and shall devote such energies and wisdom as I possess to the work at hand and trust that He Whose Work it is will ‘give the increase.’
There were other steps Wycherly took to modernize and revive the Federation. The American Federation’s publication, “The Co-Mason” Began printing again, re-publishing new articles. Conventions of Lodges were called to discuss the issues of the day, and the future of the Federation. Because of her constant and diligent efforts, her personability, and her effective fiscal management, when Wycherly decided to retire from the position in 1983, she left a much stronger Federation. She continued to be looked to for advice and guidance by the membership and would be a prominent figure until her death in 1993, just before the organization took a new turn.
Today, Wycherly is remembered fondly by all the Brothers who knew her, and the Guest House at Universal Co-Masonry’s headquarters is named after her. Constantly used by Brothers during workshops, the guest house is a fitting legacy to Bro. Helen Whycherly, who always put the organization first, and who was an inspiration to so many Brothers.
Let us have a revival of enthusiasm for Masonry, and let it begin with you!
- BROTHER ISAAC NEWTON
P.O. BOX 70
Larkspur CO 80118
Co-Masonry, Co-Freemasonry, Women's Freemasonry, Men and Women, Mixed Masonry