Order of the Eastern Star Ring

By Melissa Cole, Curator

The exhibition Freemasonry: A History Hidden in Plain Sight will be closing soon at the Oshawa Museum so I thought this ring from the OM’s collection would be a great item to highlight since it belonged to the donor’s mother who was a member of the Order of the Eastern Star or (OES) for short.


The OES is a masonic organization that is the sister organization of the Freemasons.  It is the largest fraternal organization to which men and women both belong, although the majority of its members are female.  The stated purposes of the organization are:  Charitable, Educational, Fraternal and Scientific; but there is much more to it than that.  Dr. Rob Morris, a very well-known and active Mason, is credited with founding the Eastern Star.  It is believed that the OES had its roots in France as early as 1703 – a decade before the inception of the first Grand Lodge of London in 1717.  Morris admitted that he borrowed the structure of the organization from the French who introduced the “Androgynous degrees” into America when they came to help out the Americans in their struggles against Great Britain during the American Revolutionary War.  He knew that the ancient landmarks of the order did not permit women from joining the fraternity and thus harbored his ideas for many years without action. It was in 1850 when Morris wrote the initiatory Degrees of the order. He first initiated his wife and daughters and expanded to some neighbor ladies. The signs and modes of recognition given to them, he freely communicated to Masons so that they would be able to recognize the newly initiated women.

In 1868, Morris passed his mantle on to Robert McCoy, a fellow mason, to carry on and expand the work of the Eastern Star.  He wrote the rituals of the order as they exist today.  These degrees centred on the lives of five biblical heroines which are represented on this ring.

In order to be a member of the OES you must be 18 years of age, believe in a supreme being and be related to a male Freemason through one of the following ways:

  • Affiliated Master Masons in good standing
  • the wives
  • daughters
  • legally adopted daughters
  • mothers
  • widows
  • sisters
  • half sisters
  • granddaughters
  • stepmothers
  • stepdaughters
  • stepsisters
  • daughters-in-law
  • grandmothers
  • great granddaughters
  • nieces
  • mothers-in-law
  • sisters-in-law


Eastern Star.jpg

This 5 pointed, inverted star represented on this ring reflects the five points of the Order of the Eastern Star which are female biblical figures that are associated with a color, a cardinal feminine virtue and, in some cases, a season of the year.

Lets take a closer look at each of the points represented on this inverted star which is featured on this ring.

OES Ring.jpg

The first point is Adah, Jephtah’s daughter from the Book of Judges. She is associated with the youth of spring and the color blue. Her cardinal virtue is respect for the binding power of a vow.  She is symbolized by a sword and shield symbolizing how she sacrificed her life to save her father’s honor.

The second point of the Order of the Eastern Star is Ruth, the widow from the Book of Ruth. She is associated with the abundance (symbolized through the sheaf of barley) and growth of summer and the color yellow. Ruth’s cardinal virtue is piety.

The third point is Esther, the wife from the Book of Esther. Esther is associated with the color white but does not represent a season. She is symbolized through a crown and scepter.  Esther’s cardinal virtue is fidelity to family and friends.

The fourth point of the Order of the Eastern Star is Martha, sister of Mary and Lazarus in the Gospel of John. Martha is associated with the end of life (symbolized through the broken column), winter and the color green. Martha’s cardinal virtue is undeviating faith through hardship.

The fifth point is Electa, the mother and the elect lady from the Second Epistle of John. She is associated with the full maturity of life, autumn and the color red. Electa’s cardinal virtue is patience.  This is symbolized through the cup representing charity.

Inside the center of the star is a pentagram (5-sided figure) with an altar as the logo’s focal point.   The open book upon the altar signifies obedience to God’s word.

Local Eastern Star chapters select their own charities and places of service in their own communities. Each year special charities are selected for that year’s emphasis and might include volunteer programs in elementary schools or volunteers in literacy programs and specific community outreach.  To learn more about OES visit www.easternstar.org

Freemasonry: A History Hidden in Plain Sight will be on display at the Oshawa Museum until August 31, 2016.  This exhibit is travelling from the Bruce County Museum and Cultural Centre.

Freemasonry Poster

Pokémon have taken over the museum!

By Laura G., MMC Intern

Pests are a common problem in museums and they can cause a lot of damage to the museum buildings and the collection. If Pokémon were real life pests, these are the damages they could inflict on the museum!

Insects can cause the most damage as they are small but have big appetites! Weedles, Caterpies, and Butterfrees can eat through materials such as textiles. This would have a devastating effect on any quilts, clothing, or linens.  When these pests are present there will be tiny holes in the affected textiles. Insects like Beedrills can also cause damage to the wood within a building by barreling through it. This type of destruction can make the structure of the building weaker. Venonats and Venomoths can cause devastation to textiles as well because they will chew through them. Kakuna and Metapod can also leave casings within a collection, while these are not necessarily damaging, they are a sign of insects which is never good. Insects are small and they can go unnoticed in a collection until one day a quilt is unrolled and there are holes, casings, or other damage. By then it could be too late.

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Where’s the CCI Note for Venonats in historic houses?

Rattata and mouse-like Pokémon, like Pikachu, have very good senses of smell and taste. They also have ways of easily gaining entry to the building if they were to smell something that they wanted! They chew through organic material like leather and glues. Many objects in the collection are made from organic materials (especially hair wreaths) so it is important to prevent Pokémon like these from getting into the building.


Zubats can live in collection areas because they are dark during the day when bats are asleep. Collection areas are usually kept very cool to protect the objects. This sort of environment would be perfect for a Zubat to nest. The Zubat’s droppings could cause damage to a object if it were to land on one, because Zubats fly around their droppings can affect more objects.

Pokémon can cause damage and destruction to a museum collection so it’s important to keep them in their pokeballs! It is always best to prevent an infestation before it happens, so you gotta catch ‘em all!

If this Weedle made it inside Henry House, it could be disastrous.

Student Museum Musings: Hair Wreaths

By Caitlan M., Summer Student

Since starting here as a co-op student in 2013 I always found the hair wreath in the parlour intriguing. To me, hair wreaths and jewelry are just some of the coolest things, slightly creepy since its human hair but cool. The one thing that I find most intriguing about these is the process involved. Just from looking at one you can kind of get an idea that there is a way of braiding the hair but I was never 100% sure.

970.49.5 – Hair Wreath on display in the Henry House Parlour

Back in June I found out about the Self Instructor in the Art of Hair Work: Dressing Hair, Making Curls, Switches, Braids and Hair Jewelry of Every Description by Mark Campbell which can be found online to read (I highly recommend giving this book a read if you would like to know more about the braids). Campbell’s book goes into detail on pretty much every braid possible for hair jewelry or wreaths, even down to how many strands of hair is needed for each braid. I spent a good couple days reading this book; I even gave the very first braid, Square Chain Braid, a try using yarn and cardboard since I figured yarn would be a better start of figuring the braid out rather than with hair (plus I had no volunteers who had long enough hair). It was a bit difficult but I think I have the idea of how it would be done with hair.

Lastly I found out that there are four different techniques used: table work, palette work, sepia painting and hair flowers. I will be going into more detail about these different ways in our July edition of our monthly podcast coming out Wednesday July 13.

Meet the Museum: Melissa Cole, Curator

The focus of this blog series is the staff of the Oshawa Museum and their role at the site.  What does it mean to the archivist or curator at a community museum?  What goes on behind the scenes in the Programming office?  What is Executive Director Laura Suchan’s favourite memory of the Museum? 

Join us and see what happens behind the doors of Guy House.

Melissa Cole, Curator

What do you do at the Oshawa Museum?

Hi my name is Melissa Cole and I am the Curator at the Oshawa Museum.  This is not the first position I held here at the museum.  In 2000 I was an intern in the archives with the previous archivist, Tammy Robinson.  Shortly after the internship finished a job opportunity became available in the programming department which is where I worked until I became Curator in 2002.  My main duties as Curator is to oversee the care of the three dimensional artifacts in the collection from our smallest artifact, a bead from the Grandview Archaeology Collection, to our largest artifacts, the museum buildings, Guy, Henry and Robinson.  I also research, develop and install exhibits, write grants and oversee the administration of the collection.  A lot of what I do takes place behind the scenes.


Why did you choose this career?

I love learning about the past and discovering where we have come from.  As a child I was fortunate that my parents took me to various museums throughout Ontario and was able to spend time with family in England and Wales where we visited castles and historic sites.  One particular visit that stands out the most was a visit to a museum called Llancaich Fawr Manor.   I was chosen from the crowd and put in a costume that represented the time period of the home.  I was that child that wondered what was behind the closed doors – I wanted to see behind the scenes and that is exactly what I get to do now!

Melissa, July 1994, in period costume at Llancaich Fawr Manor, with a tour guide


What is your favourite part of your job?

There are many aspects of my job that I love.  I love my job because each day is different, one day I am installing an exhibition and the next I am meeting with paranormal investigators.  Another aspect of my job that I love is discovering the stories behind the artifacts in our collection and being transported back in time.  Who knew a broom could have such a remarkable story.

Melissa, in the Robinson House storage area, with our Rebellion Box


What do you find most challenging?

Balancing all my projects which have varying degrees of importance.  There is only so much time in a day and I find it challenging at times to tend to the administration duties while trying to give the truly important things, such as the collection, the time and effort that it deserves.


How did you get into the museum field?

I have a degree in Anthropology from Trent University.  In my first year, I will be honest, I wasn’t sure where my anthropology degree was going to lead me.   I initially wanted to teach.  During one of our lectures a Professor came out to discuss a joint program between Trent University and Sir Sandford Fleming College called Museum Management and Curatorship.  I knew at that moment that is what I wanted to do.  I was ecstatic!  I basically chased Professor Harrison around for four years of university, I know it sounds silly but I kinda did!  I immediately set up an appointment with her to find out more about the program.  I must have made an impression over the years because she actually contacted me at home during the summer of ‘99 to inform me that I had been accepted into the program.


What is your earliest memory of the Oshawa Museum?

I grew up in Oshawa; I am the Curator of my hometown’s history!  I remember coming to the museum on a class trip in grade three, it was then known as the Sydenham Museum.  Although my fondest memories of the museum are associated with Lakeview Park (where the buildings stand) – I spent a lot of time at this park as a child with my dad during the summer we would walk the path and I would ask every time if I could play at the park.   Out of the three buildings, Henry House is the one I remember most because I wanted to live there – it also stands beside the park where I played!   Today my office window looks over the lake and the park that I have fond memories of and Henry House does feel like my home away from home.


The Host Files: Caitlan’s Favourite Toy

This blog series comes from our dedicated and awesome Visitor Host staff, and topics range from favourite artifacts, thoughts on our latest exhibits, and anything else in between!

By Caitlan M., Visitor Host

As our Toys and Games exhibit has just ended, I can’t help but think of my favourite toy who I could never bare to see leave. When I was about 2 years old my Nan took me to Marineland where I become obsessed with Orca whales, this lead me to finding my forever best friend – a stuff animal orca whale. I gave him the most original name possible, Whale or Mr. Whale for those fancy occasions he likes to attend. Today I like to think I was just calling him Whale because that’s what he was and my parents thought that’s what I named him, chances are I just wasn’t creative.

Throughout my childhood Whale would follow me where ever I went. If I wasn’t holding him, he would either be beside me or in the same room. I couldn’t sleep when he went to the drycleaners, or as my mom called it a holiday for him. Over the years Whale has been on every vacation I have been on, and I can remember when I went to Europe to visit family when I was 14 and my dad asked if Whale was coming with us. Going through the sassy know-it-all stage in my life I just gave my dad that look of ‘of course he is coming with us’, my dad then asked if Whale would be going in my suitcase – why my dad would ask me this I will never know, what if my suitcase would get lost or stolen then Whale would be lost to me forever. I can remember getting some weird looks from security and flight attendants, they probably thought it was a bit weird seeing a teen with a stuff animal but Whale quite enjoyed looking out the window during the flight. At the end of the day, to me Whale was another member of the family and I didn’t care what people thought.

I find it sad that these toys do not have the love they once had. Yes they are being taken care of and will continue to be taken care of but some of these toys could have easily been a Whale to some other little girl or boy. Whale has seen/been through practically everything I have. He has gone blind in his left eye (well his left eye has fallen off) and his tail is very fragile, but he continues to live on my bed ready to give me a comforting hug when needed.