Daughters of the American Revolution
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Abbreviation: DAR / NSDAR
Founded: October 11, 1890
Incorporated: February 20, 1896
Founders: Mary Desha, Mary Smith Lockwood, Ellen Hardin Walworth, and Eugenia Washington
Focus: Historic preservation, education, patriotism
Headquarters: Washington, D.C., United States
Key people: DAR President General
Publication: American Spirit Magazine, Daughters Magazine
Affiliations: Children of the American Revolution
The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) is a lineage based membership service organization for women who are directly descended from a person involved in the United States’ efforts towards independence. 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 are reviewed at the chapter level for admission. The DAR has over 185,000 current members in the United States and other countries. It’s motto is “God, Home, and Country”.
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?” 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. The first meeting of the society was held August 9, 1890.
The first DAR chapter was organized on October 11, 1890, 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. 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.
The DAR is structured into three Society levels: National Society, State Society, and Chapter. A State Society may be formed in any U.S. 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. 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.
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.