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National Society Daughters of the American Revolution

 

Just twenty-one years ago, in 1890, was organized a national society of women, whose purpose was patriotism and whose deeds now speak for them. To paraphrase the resolution presented for action to and by the Continental Congress, when the flag of our nation was created: "A new constellation was born," in woman's universe, and the stars sing together as they course through an approving heaven. Upon August 9th, 1890, was held the first organizing meeting of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution. Three women were actually present, and these women, Miss Eugenia Washington (great-niece of General Washington), Mrs. Ellen Hardin Walworth, and Miss Mary Desha, have since been known as the "founders" of the society. A final meeting to complete organization was held October, 1890, and thereafter the society was an accomplished fact. The necessary eligibility to membership consists in direct descent from an ancestor, man or woman, who rendered "material aid'' in establishing the independence of the republic. This ancestor may have been a commanding officer, or a humble private with true and proper American spirit. Rank, as such, has no influence in determining the eligibility of an applicant; but genealogical claims must be thoroughly proven, and an applicant must be acceptable to the society. As to the raison d'etre of the organization, the constitution states that the objects of this society are:

(1). To perpetuate the memory of the spirit of the men and women who achieved American independence by the acquisition and protection of historical spots, and the erection of monuments; by the encouragement of historical research in relation to the Revolution and the publication of its results ; by the preservation of documents and relics, and of the records of the individual services of revolutionary soldiers and patriots, and by the promotion of the celebration of all patriotic anniversaries.

(2). To carry out the injunction of Washington in his farewell address to the American people, "to promote, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge,'' thus developing an enlightened public opinion, and affording to young and old such advantages as shall develop in them the largest capacity for performing the duties of American citizens.

(3). To cherish, maintain, and extend the institutions of American freedom, to foster true patriotism and love of country, and to aid in securing for mankind all the blessings of liberty.

As a practical demonstration of patriotism, as a central crystallization of concrete accomplishment, Memorial Continental Hall stands the pre-eminent work of this society. Women conceived the idea and have carried into execution the rearing of a memorial such as the world has never heretofore beheld. A temple to liberty, a mausoleum of memory, and withal, a building wherein the Daughters of the American Revolution may gather officially for the transaction of business. The society has grown in its twenty-one years of existence, from the three members in attendance at the first meeting to a present membership of eighty thousand. Who could have foreseen such a phenomena of patriotism?

Hence the necessity for business offices in addition to a revolutionary memorial Continental Hall is the trunk from which spring all branches of sentiment and of active work. It is built of white marble and in pure colonial type; it is situated in Washington, the nation's Capital, and is adjacent to the White House and the Washington Monument; its cost, including the land, was half a million dollars; it stands now complete, without and within. The most notable feature of the exterior is the "memorial portico," looking southward down the Potomac; it is semi-circular in shape, and its roof is supported by thirteen monolithic columns memorializing the thirteen original states. The notable feature of the interior is the auditorium, seating two thousand; its walls finished in highly ornate colonial decoration and its roof of translucent glass, in medallion designs, harmonizing with the mural ornamentation. There is a fireproof museum for revolutionary relics, documentary and otherwise, upon one side of the auditorium; upon the other is a library containing volumes chiefly pertaining to historical and genealogical re-search. Thus it would seem that Memorial Continental Hall, in itself, is the fulfillment of the first clause of the constitutionally stated "objects of the society'. Had the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution achieved naught else, the erection of such a monument would justify the existence of the organization and shed luster upon it. But the society is engaging in other and important activities throughout the country.

"To promote the general diffusion of knowledge" a national committee on patriotic education exists. This committee is broad in scope; it deals with the incoming immigrant and with the native mountaineer; it teaches by lecture and by literature; it encourages scholarships; it presents flags (through the flag teaching the nation's history in one glorious demonstration). Connected with the committees on patriotic education is the "Interchangeable Bureau" for the lectures, with slides illustrating the subject-matter. Frequently these lectures are delivered in various languages to meet the need of the lately landed immigrant. There is an interchange of these lectures from the chairman as fountain-head, throughout all the states. Besides such work, scholarships in perpetuity have been established in certain colleges for women. These scholarships insure a living monument to patriotic educational attainment. One student after another shall reap the benefit, so long as the college endures, and specializing in American history, as the student does, sends out into the world a force of wider and yet wider dominance, through which knowledge is distributed and the ideals of our formative period preserved, while practical results are obtained for the student, who is thus fitted to teach and become self-supporting. From Continental Hall, too, will emanate the true spirit of the "diffusion of knowledge" for lectures on American History will be delivered in its auditorium to the general public. "The acquisition and protection of historical spots" has not been neglected by the society. In many localities throughout the country are valuable properties, replete with revolutionary and historic associations, owned or cared for by the Daughters of the American Revolution. Sites of battles are marked by boulders and by monuments; historic events are recorded by tablets on the walls of churches, courthouses and other buildings; libraries are provided for, the army and navy, and Red Cross nurses have been sent to the front. A national committee on Child Labor exists and the fruits of its energies are rapidly maturing into beneficent reforms. The Daughters of the American Revolution have been especially interested and active in the propagation of International Peace Arbitration. The society took action in its Congress of 1907 looking toward the encouragement of such work, and sent a memorial stating its action to the International Peace Congress being held in New York at the same time. Also, Continental Hall was offered to President Roosevelt for the use of the Japanese-Russian Peace Commission assembled in this country at the President's invitation.

By all these means and many more, does the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution consider that it is fostering "true patriotism and love of country." That the Government of the United States so regards the work of the organization is argued, in that such Government recognizes the society in the official printing of the latter's annual reports, and the dissemination of them through the Smithsonian Institute.

The first president-general of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution was Mrs. Benjamin Harrison; she has been succeeded by Mrs. Adlai E. Stevenson. Mrs. John W. Foster, Mrs. Daniel T. Manning, Mrs. Charles W. Fairbanks, Mrs. Donald McLean and Mrs. Matthew T. Scott.

A Word by the President-General D. A. R. "The Wilds"

Women of America

Source: The Part Taken by Women in American History, By Mrs. John A. Logan, Published by The Perry-Nalle Publishing Company, Wilmington, Delaware, 1912.

 

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