Daughters of the American Revolution

I’ve written a lot about the Civil War in the past few years, but my true interest has always been the Revolutionary War. During the 90s, when I began uncovering my family’s genealogy, I discovered my ancestors were in America during the Revolutionary War and fought alongside George Washington. Generations of boys in my family tree were named either George Washington or Washington in the late 1700s and 1800s. I even gave a passing thought to trying to join the Daughters of the American Revolution, but I had no clue how to go about it.

I’m wrapping up my first Young Adult book, set in Boston during the Tea Party. My eleven-year-old heroine is labeled by Samuel Adams as a daughter of the revolution. What more appropriate time to further my education about this formidable group.

First, a bit of history:

For the first hundred years after the Revolutionary War ended, Americans were concerned about how to make this country work. The War of 1812 and then the Civil War further diluted America’s focus. Americans were on the move, too, moving further 01_centennial expositioninto the continent and considered it our Manifest Destiny to have citizens from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It wasn’t until the Centennial celebration of America, held in Philadelphia in 1876 that Americans gave some thought to the preservation efforts of those cities, buildings, art, history and artifacts that were used during the days of the Revolutionary War, and conservation efforts began.

Another group emerged first—the Sons of the American Revolution formed in 1889. Their rationale for forming the group was the same as the women whose roots could be traced back to those brave men and women who lived through the war. The ladies thought they should join forces, but the Sons of the American Revolution thought otherwise, and voted to exclude the ladies. Instead of giving up their efforts, these indignant women decided to form their own group—Daughters of the American Revolution. In October, 1890, Mary Smith Lockwood, one of four women to found the group, presided over the first meeting of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution. Eighteen women formed the nucleus of the group.

09_First Congress

Original members of the Daughters of the Revolution

The founder of the group, Ellen Hardin Walworth, declared it to not be a social organization, but rather “patriotic, historical, genealogical and holds itself closely to these objects.” An early member of the DAR was Mary Virginia Ellet Cabell, who was influential

05_Mary Cabell in gaining the interest of first lady Caroline Scott Harrison, the most prominent woman in the United States at the time.

William McDowell, one of the founders of the Sons of the Revolution, disagreed with the vote to exclude the women. The great-grandson of Hannah Arnett, one of the first women patriots, he thought the DAR should be open to “every women in America who has the blood of the heroes of the revolution in her veins”. He served as an advisor to the DAR for years, although they declined his application for membership.

How To Join the DAR: Any woman who can prove, through genealogical records, she has a bloodline descending from an ancestor who helped to achieve American Independence. She must provide appropriate documentation of each marriage and death of the ancestors and provide proof of Revolutionary War service. This service includes the signers of the Declaration of Independence, any person who served in the military from April 1775 to November 1783, Civil service during the same time period, which includes town and county officials, patriotic service, such as members of the Continental Congress, participants in state conventions and assemblies. This list also includes members of the Boston Tea Party, signers of various petitions, medical staff who aided those wounded in battle and suppliers to the war, among others. In order to qualify for membership you must provide the name of your patriot ancestor and the state in which they served. Filling out a pedigree chart is the first order of business, and is available as a pdf document on the DAR site. This step has become easier, with the advent of the internet and genealogical sites such as the Church of the Latter Day Saints, and Ancestry.com, as well as DAR’s own Genealogical Research System, which links several databases together, but it’s still a lengthy process.

DAR members today are actively involved in various programs to preserve the legacy of our patriot ancestors, and last year spent over 53,000 hours in dedicated work toward this end. A YouTube video explains the DAR’s history in greater detail.