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Daughters of the American Revolution

The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) is a lineage-based membership organization of women dedicated to promoting historic preservation, education, and patriotism. DAR chapters are involved in raising funds for local scholarships and educational awards, preserving historical properties and artifacts and promoting patriotism within their communities. DAR has chapters in all fifty of the U.S. states as well as in the District of Columbia. There are also DAR chapters in Australia, the Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Spain, and the United Kingdom. DAR's motto is "God, Home, and Country." Some state chapters of DAR date from as early as October 11, 1890, and the National Society of DAR was incorporated by Congressional charter in 1896.

Eligibility

The National Society of DAR is the final arbiter of the acceptability of all applications for membership. Membership in DAR is open to women at least eighteen years of age who can prove lineal bloodline descent from an ancestor who aided in achieving United States independence. Acceptable ancestors include various related categories of known historical figures, including:

The DAR does not discriminate based on race or religion, and welcomes all women with a provable blood line to revolutionary ancestors. The adopted daughter of a revolutionary descendant would not qualify through this adoptive parent, though she may qualify through the bloodline of her birth parent.

Educational outreach

DAR schools

The DAR gives over $1 million annually to support six schools that provide for a variety of special needs.

American history essay contest

Each year, the DAR conducts a national American history essay contest among students in grades 5 through 8. A topic is selected for use during the academic year, and essays are judged "for historical accuracy, adherence to topic, organization of materials, interest, originality, spelling, grammar, punctuation, and neatness." The contest is conducted locally by the DAR chapters, and chapter winners are judged regionally and nationally, with national winners receiving a monetary award.

Scholarships

The DAR awards $150,000 per year in scholarships to high school, undergraduate, graduate, music, law, nursing, and medical school students. Only two of the 20 scholarships offered are restricted to DAR members or their descendants.

Literacy promotion

In 1989, the DAR established the NSDAR Literacy Promotion Committee, which coordinates the efforts of DAR volunteers to promote child and adult literacy. Volunteers teach English, tutor reading, prepare students for GED examinations, raise funds for literacy programs, and participate in many other ways.

Marian Anderson controversy

Although the DAR now forbids discrimination in membership based on race or creed, some members held segregationist views when this was still public policy in the United States. In 1932 the DAR adopted a rule excluding African-American artists from the stage at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., built in 1929 by the DAR, following protests over "mixed seating"; blacks and whites seated together at concerts of black artists. In 1936, Sol Hurok, manager of African-American contralto Marian Anderson since 1935, attempted to book Anderson at Constitution Hall. Owing to the "white performers only" policy, the booking was refused. Instead, Anderson performed at a Washington area black high school, and was also invited by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to perform for her and President Roosevelt. Eleanor had publicly resigned from the DAR when she heard that Marian Anderson was banned. During this time, Anderson came under considerable pressure from the NAACP to not perform for segregated audiences.

In 1939, Hurok, along with the NAACP and Howard University, petitioned the DAR to make an exception to the "white performers only" policy for a new booking, which was declined by the DAR. Hurok attempted to find a local high school for the performance, but the only suitable venue was an auditorium at a white high school. The school board, which was indirectly under the authority of the DAR President, refused to allow Anderson to perform there. Eleanor Roosevelt immediately resigned her membership with the DAR, and sent the following letter to the society:

Dear Mrs. Henry M. Robert, Jr.:

I am afraid that I have never been a very useful member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, so I know it will make very little difference to you whether I resign, or whether I continue to be a member of your organization.

However, I am in complete disagreement with the attitude taken in refusing Constitution Hall to a great artist. You have set an example which seems to me unfortunate, and I feel obliged to send in to you my resignation. You had an opportunity to lead in an enlightened way and it seems to me that your organization has failed.

I realize that many people will not agree with me, but feeling as I do this seems to me the only proper procedure to follow.

Very sincerely yours,

DAR president Mrs. Henry M. Robert, Jr., sent the First Lady the following reply:

My dear Mrs. Roosevelt,
Your letter of resignation reaches me in Colorado upon my return from the far West. I greatly regret that you found this action necessary. Our society is engaged in the education for citizenshipand the humanitarian service in which we know you to be vitally interested.
I am indeed sorry not to have been in Washington at this time. Perhaps I might have been able to remove some of the misunderstanding and to have presented to you personally the attitude of the society.
With best wishes always.
Very sincerely,
Hurok and the NAACP again appealed to the DAR, and were again refused.

The DAR later apologized and welcomed Ms. Anderson to Constitution Hall on a number of occasions after 1939, including a benefit concert for war relief in 1942. However, they did not officially reverse their "whites only" policy until 1952. Ms. Anderson chose Constitution Hall as the place where she would launch her farewell American tour in 1964. On January 27, 2005, the DAR co-hosted the first day of issue dedication ceremony of the Marian Anderson commemorative stamp with the U.S. Postal Service and Ms. Anderson's family.

Ferguson controversy

In March 1984, a new controversy erupted when Lena Lorraine Santos Ferguson said she had been denied membership in a Washington, D.C. chapter of the DAR because she was black.

In a March 12, 1984 Washington Post story, reporter Ronald Kessler quoted Ferguson’s two white sponsors, Margaret M. Johnston and Elizabeth E. Thompson, as saying that although Ferguson met the lineage requirements and could trace her ancestry to Jonah Gay, who helped the Revolutionary War effort as a member of a Friendship, Maine, town committee, fellow DAR members told them that Ferguson was not wanted because she was black.

What caused a sensation was a quote from Sarah M. King, the president general of the DAR. King told Kessler that each of the DAR’s more than 3,000 local chapters decides if it wishes to accept members.

Asked if the DAR considers discrimination against blacks by its local chapters to be acceptable, she said, “If you give a dinner party, and someone insisted on coming and you didn’t want them, what would you do?”

King continued, “Being black is not the only reason why some people have not been accepted into chapters. There are other reasons: divorce, spite, neighbors’ dislike. I would say being black is very far down the line... There are a lot of people who are troublemakers. You wouldn’t want them in there because they could cause some problems.”

After those comments ran in a page one story and ignited a firestorm, the D.C. City Council threatened to revoke the DAR’s real estate tax exemption. As more publicity erupted, King acknowledged that Ferguson should have been admitted and said her application to join the DAR was handled “inappropriately.”

Representing Ferguson free of charge, lawyers from the old line Washington law firm of Hogan & Hartson began working with King to develop positive ways of ensuring that blacks will not be discriminated against when applying for membership.

The DAR changed its bylaws to bar discrimination “on the basis of race or creed.” King announced a resolution to recognize “the heroic contributions of black patriots in the American Revolution.”

As a result of the Washington Post story, not only was Ferguson, a retired school secretary, admitted to the DAR, she became chairman and founder of the D.C. DAR Scholarship Committee

Ferguson died in March 2004 at the age of 75.

“I wanted to honor my mother and father as well as my black and white heritage,” Mrs. Ferguson told Kessler after being admitted. “And I want to encourage other black women to embrace their own rich history, because we’re all Americans.”

Notable DAR members

Historical members

References in popular culture

In the TV show Gilmore Girls, the character Emily Gilmore is a member of the DAR and inducts her granddaughter Rory Gilmore, who works for the DAR in some episodes during season 6 of the series.

In the TV show The West Wing, the character of Zoey Bartlet, daughter of President Josiah Bartlet, is inducted as a member of the DAR in the season 4 episode "Privateers". In the same episode, First Lady Abigail Bartlet has her membership of the DAR challenged on the grounds that her qualifying ancestor was a pirate rather than a "privateer".

The American rock and roll band the Black Crowes released a single circa January 2008 titled "Goodbye Daughters of the Revolution".

Grant Wood used D.A.R. for the subject matter in his 1932 satirical painting Daughters of Revolution. Wood was dissatisfied with the elitism and class distinction that was dominant in the group in the 1930's.

In the TV series M*A*S*H, episode "Mail Call Three", Major Houlihan discusses with Major Winchester how her fiance's mother will not let her be applied to the D.A.R.

In the movie Grumpy Old Men, Max Goldman informs his son he's going to attend a dance at the local V.F.W. held by the D.A.R.

In the film "Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous" FBI agent Sam Fuller states that she will get coffee for fellow agent Gracie Hart when "they elect a black woman president of the Daughters of the American revolution"

See also

This list contains related U.S. organizations. There are at least two related organizations in Canada not shown that are similar to the DAR and SAR.

Further reading

  • Bailey, Diana L. American Treasure: The Enduring Spirit of the DAR. 2007. Walsworth Publishing Company.
  • Hunter, Ann Arnold. A Century of Service: The Story of the DAR. 1991, Washington, DC. National Society Daughters of the American Revolution.
  • Strayer, Martha. The D.A.R.: An Informal History. 1958, Washington, DC. Public Affairs Press. (critically reviewed by Gilbert Steiner as covering personalities but not politics, Review, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, v.320, "Highway Safety and Traffic Control" (Nov. 1958), pp.148-49.)

External links

Notes

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