Presentation Notes - by Sara Baker
My talk on the founding and history of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution began with a poem by a DAR member from Ohio.
"I am an American and proud to be; I am a patriot in the land of the free." She continued to proclaim various moods and situations until revealing at its end it was written for the DAR.
I quote from DAR magazines: "The men and women who achieved American independence needed no reminders of what they had accomplished. The victory itself was the monument to the spirit. No other was required. Documents, relics, and soldiers' tales were handed down in the traditional way, through families. The nation was to endure a devastating war between its very states, a painful reconstruction, and a proud centennial before it finally awoke to the ephemeral nature of the national memory. And then, suddenly, it was time to remember and preserve.
"In 1890 our founders created an organization dedicated to the ideals of promoting historic preservation, education, and patriotism, while preserving the memory of the brave men and women who fought for America's independence. Their legacy is embodied in the membership of NSDAR." (National Society Daughters of the American Revolution).
But prior to 1890, the sons, grandsons, and greatgrandsons were involved in establishing organizations to do this very thing. In 1875 in California, a patriotic group called itself the Sons of Revolutionary Sires. In 1883 a group in New York formed the Sons of the Revolution. At Fraunces Tavern in New York City in 1889, the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) incorporated a number of the earlier state societies. Some of the SAR groups accepted women as members, but at a general meeting in April 1890, they voted to exclude women. There was no reaction until after the decision was published in July following a Washington, D.C. banquet where a senator expressed regret that women were ineligible!
This started a firestorm from women--were there no mothers of the Revolution? One SAR member came from behind the scenes to promote the organization of a separate and national organization for women. Just as there is a woman behind every successful man, here was a man behind the women, pushing and helping them.
It took only three meetings to carefully organize the NSDAR! The four women considered our founders are: Eugenia Washington, Mary Desha, Ellen Hardin Walworth, and Mary Smith Lockwood. Charter membership in one year listed 818 women. By 1898-over 23,000 members. In June 1961 when I joined, the number issued to me was 481786! In December of 2006, the last number issued was 848293!
From its beginning the NSDAR has considered itself a service organization. What we cannot do, we recognize and give credit to others. Every year our national conference, called Continental Congress, is held in Constitution Hall, one of three buildings we have built. DAR occupies an entire city block opposite the Ellipse in D.C.--between C and D streets and 17th and 18th Streets. The first DAR building, Memorial Continental Hall, contains an outstanding genealogy library. The building connecting the two halls is our administration building. They are the largest building complex in the world conceived, paid for, built, and maintained by women.
NSDAR services include promoting patriotism through essay contests in schools, the observance of Constitution Week, service to veterans, giving flags to new citizens and youth groups. We begin every meeting with the pledge of allegiance to the flag and the American's creed. One of our members organized the Army Nurse Corps in the Spanish-American War.
To preserve history, we house an accredited and beautiful museum in Memorial Hall, with a collection of Americana objects of historic value and several period rooms from various states. (Regular exhibitions are shown to the public). To promote education, we have built two schools and give support to four others. The Hillside School in Marlborough is the only one which is north of the Mason-Dixon line. The DAR gives scholarships in various fields with particular attention given to history and the medical field' for Indian students.
[Editor's note: The DAR's website - http://www.dar.org - provides information on membership, its history, the genealogy library including its military and family papers, manuscripts, autographs, etc. A new book, American Treasure: The Enduring Spirit, released in June 2007, tells the compelling story of the Society with 400 contemporary and historic photos as well as the work carried out by the DAR chapters around the world.]
See the Presentation Notes Index for summaries of other presentations given at the Society's monthly meetings.