Daughters of the American Revolution

The National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR or NSDAR) is a lineage-based membership service organization for women who are directly descended from a person involved in the United States' struggle for independence.[1] A non-profit group, they promote education and patriotism. The organization's membership is limited to direct lineal descendants of soldiers or others of the Revolutionary period who aided the cause of independence; applicants must have reached 18 years of age and have a birth certificate indicating gender as female. The DAR has over 190,000 current members[2] in the United States and other countries.[3] Its motto is "God, Home, and Country".[4][5][6]

Daughters of the American Revolution
National Society Daughters of the American Revolution
HeadquartersWashington, D.C., United States
PublicationAmerican Spirit Magazine, Daughters Magazine
AffiliationsChildren of the American Revolution

Founding edit

The Founders of the Daughters of the American Revolution sculpture honors the four founders of the DAR.
Julia Green Scott in 1913, DAR President General

In 1889, the centennial of President George Washington's inauguration was celebrated, and Americans looked for additional ways to recognize their past. Out of the renewed interest in United States history, numerous patriotic and preservation societies were founded. On July 13, 1890, after the Sons of the American Revolution refused to allow women to join their group, Mary Smith Lockwood published the story of patriot Hannah White Arnett in The Washington Post, asking, "Where will the Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution place Hannah Arnett?"[7] On July 21 of that year, William O. McDowell, a great-grandson of Hannah White Arnett, published an article in The Washington Post offering to help form a society to be known as the Daughters of the American Revolution.[7] The first meeting of the society was held August 9, 1890.[7]

The first DAR chapter was organized on October 11, 1890,[8] at the Strathmore Arms, the home of Mary Smith Lockwood, one of the DAR's four co-founders. Other founders were Eugenia Washington, a great-grandniece of George Washington, Ellen Hardin Walworth, and Mary Desha. They had also held organizational meetings in August 1890.[9] Other attendees in October were Sons of the American Revolution members Registrar General Dr. George Brown Goode, Secretary General A. Howard Clark, William O. McDowell (SAR member #1), Wilson L. Gill (secretary at the inaugural meeting), and 18 other people.

The First Lady, Caroline Lavina Scott Harrison, wife of President Benjamin Harrison, lent her prestige to the founding of DAR, and served as its first President General. Having initiated a renovation of the White House, she was interested in historic preservation. She helped establish the goals of DAR, which was incorporated by congressional charter in 1896.

In this same period, such organizations as the Colonial Dames of America, the Mary Washington Memorial Society, Preservation of the Virginia Antiquities, United Daughters of the Confederacy, and Sons of Confederate Veterans were also founded. This was in addition to numerous fraternal and civic organizations flourishing in this period.

Structure edit

The DAR is structured into three Society levels: National Society, State Society, and Chapter. A State Society may be formed in any US State, the District of Columbia, or other countries that are home to at least one DAR Chapter. Chapters can be organized by a minimum of 12 members, or prospective members, who live in the same city or town.[10]

Each Society or Chapter is overseen by an executive board composed of a variety of officers. National level officers are: President General, First Vice President General, Chaplain General, Recording Secretary General, Corresponding Secretary General, Organizing Secretary General, Treasurer General, Registrar General, Historian General, Librarian General, Curator General, and Reporter General, to be designated as Executive Officers, and twenty-one Vice Presidents General. These officers are mirrored at the State and Chapter level, with a few changes: instead of a President General, States and Chapters have Regents, the twenty-one Vice Presidents General become one Second Vice Regent position, and the title of "General" is replaced by the title of either "State" or "Chapter". Example: First Vice President General becomes State First Vice Regent.[11]

Historic programs edit

This Daughters of the American Revolution tablet erected in 1926 in Old Allentown Cemetery in Allentown, Pennsylvania honors Allentown patriots from the American Revolution, many of whom are buried in the cemetery.

The DAR chapters raised funds to initiate a number of historic preservation and patriotic endeavors. They began a practice of installing markers at the graves of Revolutionary War veterans to indicate their service, and adding small flags at their gravesites on Memorial Day.

Other activities included commissioning and installing monuments to battles and other sites related to the War. The DAR recognized women patriots' contributions as well as those of soldiers. For instance, they installed a monument at the site of a spring where Polly Hawkins Craig and other women got water to use against flaming arrows, in the defense of Bryan Station (present-day Lexington, Kentucky).

In addition to installing markers and monuments, DAR chapters have purchased, preserved, and operated historic houses and other sites associated with the war.

DAR Hospital Corps (Spanish–American War, 1898) edit

In the 19th century, the U.S. military did not have an affiliated group of nurses to treat servicemembers during wartime. At the onset of the Spanish–American War in 1898, the U.S. Army appointed Dr. Anita Newcomb McGee as Acting Assistant Surgeon to select educated and experienced nurses to work for the Army. As Vice President of the DAR (who also served as NSDAR's first Librarian General), Dr. McGee founded the DAR Hospital Corps to vet applicants for nursing positions. The DAR Hospital Corps certified 1,081 nurses for service during the Spanish–American War. DAR later funded pensions for many of these nurses who did not qualify for government pensions. Some of the DAR-certified nurses were trained by the American Red Cross, and many others came from religious orders such as the Sisters of Charity, Sisters of Mercy, and Sisters of the Holy Cross.[12][13] These nurses served the U.S. Army not only in the United States but also in Cuba and the Philippines during the war. They paved the way for the eventual establishment—with Dr. McGee's assistance—of the Army Nurse Corps in 1901.[14]

Textbook committees edit

During the 1950s, statewide chapters of the DAR took an interest in reviewing school textbooks for their own standards of suitability. In Texas, the statewide "Committee on Investigations of Textbooks" issued a report in 1955 identifying 59 textbooks currently in Texas public schools that had "socialistic slant" or "other deficiencies" including references to "Soviet Russia" in the Encyclopedia Britannica.[15] In 1959, the Mississippi chapter's "National Defense Committee" undertook a state lobbying effort that secured an amendment to state law which added "lay" members to the committee reviewing school textbooks. A DAR board member was appointed to one of the seats.[16]

Contemporary DAR edit

Rhode Island State DAR at the 2023 Gaspee Days Parade, Pawtuxet Village

There are nearly 180,000 current members of the DAR in approximately 3,000 chapters across the United States and in several other countries. The organization describes itself as "one of the most inclusive genealogical societies"[17] in the United States, noting on its website that, "any woman 18 years or older — regardless of race, religion, or ethnic background — who can prove lineal descent from a patriot of the American Revolution, is eligible for membership".[17] The current DAR President General is Pamela Rouse Wright, the founder and owner of a jewelry and luxury goods business in Texas.

Eligibility edit

Membership in the DAR today is open to all women, regardless of race or religion, who can prove lineal bloodline descent from an ancestor who aided in achieving United States independence.[1] The National Society DAR is the final arbiter of the acceptability of the documentation of all applications for membership.

Qualifying participants in achieving independence include the following:

The DAR published a book, available online,[19] with the names of thousands of minority patriots, to enable family and historical research. Its online Genealogical Research System (GRS)[20] provides access to a database, and it is digitizing family Bibles to collect more information for research.

The organization has chapters in all 50 U.S. states and in the District of Columbia. DAR chapters have been founded in Australia, Austria, the Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Spain, and the United Kingdom. The DAR is a governing organization within the Hereditary Society Community of the United States of America, and each DAR President General has served on HSC's board since its inception.

In June 2023, at the 132nd DAR Continental Congress, the organization voted to add an amendment to their bylaws that states the chapters "may not discriminate against an eligible applicant based on race, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability, or any other characteristic protected by applicable law." DAR spokesperson Bren Landon told Newsweek that the amendment "provides additional non-discrimination language" that protects the society's tax-exempt status. She also told Newsweek that "the new language does not change the criteria for membership," and that "DAR's longstanding membership policy remains unchanged since our founding in 1890."[21] At the congress, Jennifer Mease, a delegate and Regent of the Liberty Bell Chapter in Pennsylvania, inquired whether chapters could vote against admitting transgender women on the basis of their sex even if they had changed their birth certificates to match their preferred gender identity.[21] President General Wright responded to Mease's inquiry by stating "if a person’s certified birth certificate states ‘female,’ they are eligible for membership, and your chapter cannot change that.. if their birth certificate says they are a female, and you vote against them based on their protected class, it's discrimination."[21]

Education outreach edit

The DAR contributes more than $1 million annually to support five schools that provide for a variety of special student needs.[22] Supported schools:

In addition, the DAR provides $70,000 to $100,000 in scholarships and funds to American Indian youth at Chemawa Indian School, Salem, Oregon; Bacone College, Muskogee, Oklahoma; and the Indian Youth of America Summer Camp Program.[23]

Civic work edit

DAR members participate in a variety of veteran and citizenship-oriented projects, including:

  • Providing more than 200,000 hours of volunteer time annually to veterans in U.S. Veterans Administration hospitals and non-VA facilities
  • Offering support to America's service personnel in current conflicts abroad through care packages, phone cards and other needed items
  • Sponsoring special programs promoting the Constitution during its official celebration week of September 17–23
  • Participating in naturalization ceremonies

Exhibits and library at DAR Headquarters edit

The DAR maintains a genealogical library at its headquarters in Washington, DC, and provides guides for individuals doing family research. Its bookstore presents scholarship on United States and women's history.

Temporary exhibits in the galleries have featured women's arts and crafts, including items from the DAR's quilt and embroidery collections. Exhibit curators provide a social and historical context for girls' and women's arts in such exhibits, for instance, explaining practices of mourning reflected in certain kinds of embroidery samplers, as well as ideals expressed about the new republic. Permanent exhibits include American furniture, silver and furnishings.

Literacy promotion edit

In 1989, the DAR established the NSDAR Literacy Promotion Committee, which coordinates the efforts of DAR volunteers to promote child and adult literacy. Volunteers teach English, tutor reading, prepare students for GED examinations, raise funds for literacy programs, and participate in many other ways.[24]

American history essay contest edit

Each year, the DAR conducts a national American history essay contest among students in grades 5 through 8. A different topic is selected each year. Essays are judged "for historical accuracy, adherence to topic, organization of materials, interest, originality, spelling, grammar, punctuation, and neatness." The contest is conducted locally by the DAR chapters. Chapter winners compete against each other by region and nationally; national winners receive a monetary award.[25]

Scholarships edit

The DAR awards $150,000 per year in scholarships to high school graduates, and music, law, nursing, and medical school students. Only two of the 20 scholarships offered are restricted to DAR members or their descendants.[26]

African Americans and the DAR edit

In 1932 the DAR adopted a rule excluding African American musicians from performing at DAR Constitution Hall in response to complaints by some members against "mixed seating," as both black and white people were attracted to concerts of black artists. In 1939, they denied permission for Marian Anderson to perform a concert. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, a DAR member, resigned from the organization. In her letter to the DAR, Roosevelt wrote, "I am in complete disagreement with the attitude taken in refusing Constitution Hall to a great artist... You had an opportunity to lead in an enlightened way and it seems to me that your organization has failed." Author Zora Neale Hurston, however, criticized Roosevelt's refusal to condemn the Board of Education of D.C.'s simultaneous decision to exclude Anderson from singing at the segregated white Central High School. Hurston declared “to jump the people responsible for racial bias would be to accuse and expose the accusers themselves. The District of Columbia has no home rule; it is controlled by congressional committees, and Congress at the time was overwhelmingly Democratic. It was controlled by the very people who were screaming so loudly against the DAR. To my way of thinking, both places should have been denounced, or neither.” [27]

As the controversy grew, the American press overwhelmingly backed Anderson's right to sing. The Philadelphia Tribune wrote, "A group of tottering old ladies, who don't know the difference between patriotism and putridism, have compelled the gracious First Lady to apologize for their national rudeness." The Richmond Times-Dispatch wrote, "In these days of racial intolerance so crudely expressed in the Third Reich, an action such as the D.A.R.'s ban ... seems all the more deplorable." At Eleanor Roosevelt's behest, President Roosevelt and Walter White, then-executive secretary of the NAACP, and Anderson's manager, impresario Sol Hurok arranged an open-air concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial with a dignified and stirring rendition of "America (My Country, 'Tis of Thee)". The event attracted a crowd of more than 75,000 in addition to a national radio audience of millions.[28]

The DAR officially reversed its "white performers only" policy in 1952.[29] However, in 1957, the Colorado branch of the DAR refused to allow a Mexican American child to participate in an Abraham Lincoln birthday event.[30]

In 1977, Karen Batchelor Farmer (now Karen Batchelor) of Detroit, Michigan, was admitted to the Ezra Parker Chapter (Royal Oak, MI) as the first known African American member of the DAR.[31] Batchelor's admission as the first known African American member of DAR sparked international interest after it was featured in a story on page one of The New York Times.[32] In 1984, Lena Lorraine Santos Ferguson, a retired school secretary, was denied membership in a Washington, D.C. chapter of the DAR because she was Black, according to a report by The Washington Post.[33] Ferguson met the lineage requirements and could trace her ancestry to Jonah Gay, a white man who fought in Maine.[33] When asked for comment, Sarah M. King, the President General of the DAR, told The Washington Post that the DAR's chapters have autonomy in determining members.[33] King went on to tell Washington Post reporter Ronald Kessler, "Being black is not the only reason why some people have not been accepted into chapters. There are other reasons: divorce, spite, neighbors' dislike. I would say being black is very far down the line....There are a lot of people who are troublemakers. You wouldn't want them in there because they could cause some problems."[33] After King's comments were reported in a page one story, outrage erupted, and the D.C. City Council threatened to revoke the DAR's real estate tax exemption. King quickly corrected her error, saying that Ferguson should have been admitted, and that her application had been handled "inappropriately". DAR changed its bylaws to bar discrimination "on the basis of race or creed." In addition, King announced a resolution to recognize "the heroic contributions of black patriots in the American Revolution."[34]

Since the mid-1980s, the DAR has supported a project to identify African Americans, Native Americans, and individuals of mixed race who were patriots of the American Revolution, expanding their recognition beyond soldiers.[35] In 2008, DAR published Forgotten Patriots: African-American and American Indian Patriots in the Revolutionary War.[19][35] In 2007, the DAR posthumously honored one of Thomas Jefferson's slaves, Mary Hemings Bell, as a "Patriot of the Revolution." Because of Hemings Bell's declaration by the DAR to be a Patriot, all of her female descendants qualify for membership in the DAR.[36] Wilhelmena Rhodes Kelly, in 2019, became the first African American elected to the DAR National Board of Management when she was installed as New York State Regent in June.[37]

Notable members edit

Living members edit

Deceased members edit

List of DAR presidents general edit

The presidents general of the society have been:[80][81]

Number President General Years in office State of membership
1 Caroline Scott Harrison , (Mrs. Benjamin) 1890–1892, Died in office Indiana
1.5 Mary Virginia Ellet Cabell , (Mrs. William D.) 1892–1893, Vice President Presiding Virginia
2 Letitia Green Stevenson , (Mrs. Adlai E.) 1893–1895 Illinois
3 Mary Parke McFerson Foster , (Mrs. John W.) 1895–1896 Indiana
4 Letitia Green Stevenson , (Mrs. Adlai E.) 1896–1898 Illinois
5 Mary Margaretta Fryer Manning , (Mrs. Daniel) 1898–1899, & 1899–1901 New York
6 Cornelia Cole Fairbanks , (Mrs. Charles W.) 1901–1903, & 1903–1905 Indiana
7 Emily Nelson Ritchie McLean , (Mrs. Donald) 1905–1907, & 1907–1909 New York
8 Julia Green Scott , (Mrs. Matthew T.) 1909–1911, & 1911–1913 Illinois
9 Daisy Allen Story , (Mrs. William Cumming) 1913–1915, & 1915–1917 New York
10 Sarah Elizabeth Mitchell Guernsey , (Mrs. George Thatcher) 1917–1920 Kansas
11 Anne Belle Rogers Minor , (Mrs. George Maynard) 1920–1923 Connecticut
12 Lora Haines Cook , (Mrs. Anthony Wayne) 1923–1926 Pennsylvania
13 Grace Lincoln Brosseau , (Mrs. Hall) 1926–1929 Connecticut
14 Edith Erwin Hobart , (Mrs. Lowell Fletcher) 1929–1932 Ohio
15 Edith Scott Magna , (Mrs. Russell William) 1932–1935 Massachusetts
16 Florence Hague Becker , (Mrs. William A.) 1935–1938 New Jersey
17 Sarah Corbin Robert , (Mrs. Henry Martyn Jr.) 1938–1941 Maryland
18 Helena R. Pouch , (Mrs. William H.) 1941–1944 New York
19 May Erwin Talmadge , (Mrs. Julius Young) 1944–1947 Georgia
20 Estella A. O'Byrne , (Mrs. Roscoe C.) 1947–1950 Indiana
21 Marguerite Courtright Patton , (Mrs. James B.) 1950–1953 Ohio
22 Gertrude Sprague Carraway 1953–1956 North Carolina
23 Allene Wilson Groves , (Mrs. Frederic A.) 1956–1959 Missouri
24 Doris Pike White,[82] (Mrs. Ashmead) 1959–1962 Maine
25 Marion Moncure Duncan , (Mrs. Robert V. H.) 1962–1965 Virginia
26 Adele Woodhouse Erb Sullivan , (Mrs. William Henry Jr.) 1965–1968 New York
27 Betty Newkirk Seimes , (Mrs. Erwin Frees) 1968–1971 Delaware
28 Eleanor Washington Spicer , (Mrs. Donald) 1971–1974 California
29 Sara Roddis Jones , (Mrs. Henry Stewart) 1974–1975 Wisconsin
30 Jane Farwell Smith , (Mrs. Wakelee Rawson) 1975–1977 Illinois
31 Jeannette Osborn Baylies , (Mrs. George Upham) 1977–1980 New York
32 Patricia Walton Shelby , (Mrs. Richard Denny) 1980–1983 Mississippi
33 Sarah McKelley King , (Mrs. Walter Hughey) 1983–1986 Tennessee
34 Ann Davison Duffie Fleck , (Mrs. Raymond Franklin) 1986–1989 Massachusetts
35 Marie Hirst Yochim , (Mrs. Eldred Martin) 1989–1992 Virginia
36 Wayne Garrison Blair , (Mrs. Donald Shattuck) 1992–1995 Ohio
37 Dorla Eaton Kemper , (Mrs. Charles Keil) 1995–1998 California
38 Georgane Ferguson Love (Easley) , (Mrs. Dale Kelly) 1998–2001 Mississippi
39 Linda Tinker Watkins* 2001–2004 Tennessee
40 Presley Merritt Wagoner 2004–2007 West Virginia
41 Linda Gist Calvin 2007–2010 California
42 Merry Ann T. Wright 2010–2013 New York
43 Lynn Forney Young 2013–2016 Texas
44 Ann Turner Dillon 2016–2019 Colorado
45 Denise Doring VanBuren 2019–2022 New York
46 Pamela Rouse Wright 2022–2025 Texas

*Note: During the Watkins administration, the President General and other National Officers began to be referred to by their own first names, rather than their husbands'.

Honors edit

Yale Club plaque

A memorial to the Daughters of the American Revolution's four founders at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., was dedicated on April 17, 1929. It was sculpted by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, a DAR member.[83][84]

See also edit

References edit

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  2. ^ Continental Congress membership report
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  6. ^ "The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum." Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum – Marian Anderson. N.p., n.d. Web. May 23, 2016.
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  78. ^ "Maryly VanLeer Peck". Florida Women's Hall of Fame. Florida Commission on the Status of Women. Retrieved March 29, 2018.
  79. ^ Daughters of the American Revolution (1912). Lineage Book – National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Vol. 36 (Public domain ed.). Daughters of the American Revolution.
  80. ^ DAR Handbook and National Bylaws (33rd ed.). Washington, D.C. 2020. p. 34.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  81. ^ National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (2013). The Wide Blue Sash (2nd ed.). National Society Daughters of the American Revolution. ISBN 9781892237163.
  82. ^ White, Doris Pike (April 1962). "The President General's Message". Daughters of the American Revolution Magazine. 96 (4): 355.
  83. ^ "Founders Memorial". Daughters of the American Revolution. Retrieved October 31, 2014.
  84. ^ "Daughters of the American Revolution, Founders statue at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney located in James M. Goode's Foggy Bottom area". Retrieved November 15, 2014.

  This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the National Archives and Records Administration.

Works cited edit

Further reading edit

Independent accounts
  • Hunter, Ann Arnold. A Century of Service: The Story of the DAR. Washington, DC: National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (1991).
  • Simkovich, Patricia Joy. Indomitable Spirit: The Life of Ellen Hardin Walworth, Washington, DC: National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (2001). (The life story of Ellen Hardin Walworth, one of the NSDAR founders.)
  • 125 Years of Devotion to America, Washington, DC: National Society Daughters of the American Revolution. DAR publication that includes reflections, prayers and ceremonial excerpts to capture material about the DAR and its members' service.

External links edit