In 1890, shortly after the United States of America had celebrated its centennial and the country had experienced a resurgence in patriotism, four women sought out different ways to express their patriotic feelings. Their fathers or grandfathers had fought in the Revolution.
Unfortunately, life for women more than 100 years ago was much different than it is today. While the Sons Of the American Revolution founded a year earlier consisted of some chapters that allowed women and some that did not, a controversial vote in July 1890 excluded women from the organization that had been formed to perpetuate the memory of ancestors who fought to make this country free and independent.
Rather than be excluded outright, these women — Mary Desha, Mary Lockwood, Ellen Wadsworth, and Eugenia Washington — set out to do something few women had done. They founded the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) dedicated to ensure the preservation of their ancestors along with the spirit of patriotic service to the nation.
“All four founders were extraordinary women in their own right,” said Randy Sutton, president of Celebrating Legacy. “People sometimes have the notion that women didn’t do anything before the onset of the 1970s, but it’s just not true. Ms. Desha was a women’s rights activist; Ms. Lockwood was a historian and writer; Ms. Wadsworth earned a law degree; and Ms. Washington survived the Battle of Fredericksburg after being trapped in the middle of it while trying to flee with her father.”
Today, the DAR is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and is a nonprofit, non-political volunteer women’s service organization dedicated to promoting patriotism, preserving American history, and securing America’s future through better education for children.
DAR members volunteer more than 250,000 hours annually to veteran patients, award thousands of dollars in scholarships and financial aid each year to students, and support schools for underserved children with annual donations exceeding $1 million.
As one of the most inclusive genealogical societies in the country, DAR boasts 170,000 members in 3,000 chapters across the United States and internationally. 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.
“The headquarters is one of the largest genealogical societies in the country, with one of the premier genealogical libraries, the foremost collections of pre-industrial American decorative arts, Washington’s largest concert hall, and an extensive collection of early American manuscripts and imprints,” said Sutton. “For anyone who believes that their ancestors lived and fought for independence, the work of the DAR is one of the most exhaustive and vital in its effort to preserve not just the interpretive concepts of what America means, but also the one laid out by their fathers and grandfathers — the men and women who worked together to establish a new country.”
Sutton says organizations such as the DAR and Sons of the American Revolution are critical to helping bridge the gap between generations and ensuring people remember and reflect on not only the celebrations that typify the Fourth of July, but also the spirit that prompted these men and women to leave one of the most powerful legacies of individualism and independence on the planet: the Declaration of Independence.
Past members include a long line of notable women, including Susan B. Anthony, Clara Barton, Ginger Rogers, Carline Scott Harrison, and Infanta Eulalia. Among its most visible project, the DAR hosts an annual essay contest, awards scholarships, and established a strong program that promotes literacy.
If you are interested in learning more about the organization, visit the site at Daughters of the American Revolution. For men, visit the National Society, Sons of the American Revolution. It has 29,000 members in more than 500 chapters.
Happy Fourth of July. Have a great holiday and please be safe.