DAR Constitution Hall

The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) is a lineage-based membership organization of women[1] 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, Austria, the Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, 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.


The National Society of DAR is the final arbiter of the acceptability of all applications for membership. Membership in DAR is open to women 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:

  • Signers of the United States Declaration of Independence;
  • Military veterans of the American Revolutionary War, including State navies and militias, local militias, privateers, and French or Spanish soldiers and sailors who fought in the American theater of war;
  • Civil servants of provisional or State governments, Continental Congress and State conventions and assemblies;
  • Signers of Oaths of Allegiance or Oath of Fidelity and Support;
  • Participants in the Boston Tea Party;
  • Prisoners of war, refugees, and defenders of fortresses and frontiers; doctors and nurses who aided Revolutionary casualties; and ministers, petitioners;
  • Others who gave material or patriotic support to the Revolutionary cause.[1]

Historically, the DAR discriminated on the basis of race. The DAR does not currently discriminate based on race or religion. Women with a provable blood line to revolutionary ancestors are eligible for membership.[1]

Educational outreach[]

DAR schools[]

The DAR gives over $1 million annually to support six schools that provide for a variety of special needs.[2] Supported schools include:

  • Kate Duncan Smith DAR School, Grant, Alabama
  • Tamassee DAR School, Tamassee, South Carolina
  • Crossnore School, Crossnore, North Carolina
  • Hillside School, Marlborough, Massachusetts
  • Hindman Settlement School, Hindman, Kentucky
  • Berry College, Mount Berry, Georgia

In addition, the DAR provides $70,000 to $100,000 in scholarships and funds to American Indian youth at Chemawa Indian School, Salem, Oregon; Bacone College, Muskogee, Oklahoma; and the Indian Youth of America Summer Camp Program.[3]

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.[4]


The DAR awards $150,000 per year in scholarships to high school graduate, music, law, nursing, and medical school students. Only two of the 20 scholarships offered are restricted to DAR members or their descendants.[5]

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.[6]

Marian Anderson performance[]

Although the DAR now forbids discrimination in membership based on race or creed, some members held such views when racial segregation was public policy in much of the United States. In 1932, Washington, D.C. was a segregated city. The DAR adopted a rule excluding African-American artists from the stage at Constitution Hall, built in 1929, following protests by some members over "mixed seating"—blacks and whites seated together at concerts of black artists.[7] The District of Columbia retained official segregation until after World War II. 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. During this time, Anderson came under considerable pressure from the NAACP not to perform for segregated audiences.[8]

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.[8] Eleanor Roosevelt immediately resigned her membership of the DAR. The organization later apologized and welcomed Anderson to Constitution Hall on a number of occasions after 1939, including a benefit concert for war relief in 1942.[9] But, they did not officially reverse their "whites only" policy until 1952.[10] Anderson chose Constitution Hall as the place where she would launch her farewell American tour in 1964.[11]

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 Anderson's family.[12]

First African-American member of DAR[]

In October 1977, Karen Batchelor Farmer (now Karen Batchelor) of Detroit, Michigan was admitted as the first known African-American member of DAR.[13] Batchelor started her genealogical research in 1976 as a young mother who wanted to commemorate the American bicentennial year in a way that had special meaning for her family. Within 26 months, she had traced her family history back to the American Revolution - a completely unexpected result. Batchelor traced her ancestry to a patriot, William Hood, who served in the colonial militia in Pennsylvania during the Revolution in the defense of Fort Freeland.[14]

With the help of the late James Dent Walker, head of Genealogical Services at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., Batchelor was contacted by the Ezra Parker Chapter in Royal Oak, Michigan, who invited her to join their chapter; she officially became DAR member #623,128. In December 1977, Batchelor's admission as the first known African-American member of DAR sparked international interest after a story on page one of the New York Times[15]: she also appeared on Good Morning America, where she was interviewed by regular guest host, John Lindsay, former mayor of New York.

Batchelor co-founded the Fred Hart Williams Genealogical Society in 1979, an organization in Detroit, Michigan for African-American family research. She continues to research her own family history and inspire others to do the same.

Ferguson controversy[]

In March 1984, a controversy arose when Lena Lorraine Santos Ferguson said she had been denied membership in a Washington, D.C. chapter of the DAR because she was black.[16] The 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, fellow DAR members told them that Ferguson was not wanted because she was black.

Sarah M. King, the president general of the DAR, said that each of the DAR's more than 3,000 local chapters decides if it wishes to accept members. Asked if she thought this 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."[16]

After the publicity about the comments, the D.C. City Council threatened to revoke the DAR's real estate tax exemption. King said 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 Washington law firm of Hogan & Hartson began working with King to develop positive ways to ensure that blacks would 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, Ferguson, a retired school secretary, was admitted to the DAR. "I wanted to honor my mother and father as well as my black and white heritage," Ferguson said after being admitted. "And I want to encourage other black women to embrace their own rich history, because we're all Americans." She became chairman and founder of the D.C. DAR Scholarship Committee. She died in March 2004 at the age of 75.

Notable DAR members[]

Past members

Daughters of the American Revolution monument to the Battle of Fort Washington, erected in 1910. The approach deck of the George Washington Bridge, New York City was built above it.

Living members
  • Suzanne Bishopric, treasurer of the United Nations
  • Dr. Betsy Boze, American Academic—Chief Executive Officer and Dean, Kent State University Stark[19]
  • Laura Welch Bush, former First Lady of the United States
  • Rosalynn Smith Carter, former First Lady of the United States, politician, political and social activist
  • Elizabeth Hanford Dole, former U.S. Senator from North Carolina, former Transportation secretary, Labor secretary, American Red Cross president, Federal Trade Commissioner, Presidential candidate, and Presidential advisor
  • Janet Reno, former Attorney General of the United States
  • Bo Derek, actress, former model, and conservative political activist
  • Phyllis Schlafly, conservative political activist and writer
  • Jane Wright - Respected member.

References in popular culture[]

  • 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 he thought characterized the group in the 1930s.
  • Abbey Bartlet, the first lady in the fictional television drama The West Wing was a member of the DAR (4x18 - Privateers)
  • Fictional characters Emily Gilmore and Rory Gilmore of the Warner Brothers TV series Gilmore Girls are members of the D.A.R.
  • Fictional character Lovey Howell of Gilligan's Island is a member of the D.A.R.
  • Fictional character Margaret Houlihan of M*A*S*H is blackballed by her mother-in-law from being a member of the D.A.R.
  • In the play The Glass Menagerie, the character Amanda is asked by her daughter if she attended the D.A.R meeting.
  • In the 1971 film Fool's Parade, The Anne Baxter character Cleo, a houseboat Madam, states that she was blackballed by the D.A.R.
  • In the musical The Music Man, the lyrics to "Wells Fargo Wagon" included "The D.A.R. have sent a cannon for the courthouse square."
  • In Sinclair Lewis's 1935 novel It Can't Happen Here, the D.A.R is generally portrayed as "composed of females who spend one half of their waking hours boasting of being descended from the seditious American colonists of 1776, and the other and more ardent half in attacking all contemporaries who believe in precisely the principles for which those ancestors struggled."
  • At the end of Stan Freberg Presents The United States of America Volume One The Early Years, a member of the D.A.R. (played by June Foray) attempts to lodge a protest about the recording. Stan Freberg uncermoniously slams a door in her face.
  • In State Radio's song "Riddle Me in London Town."
  • In Kurt Vonnegut's novel Cat's Cradle.
  • In the 1960s film Splendor in the Grass, the DAR is mentioned in reference to the sister of Warren Beatty's character.
  • Phil Ochs's song "Love Me, I'm a Liberal" mentions "put[ting] down the old D.A.R., D.A.R.: that's the Dykes of the American Revolution."
  • In The Black Crowes' song "Goodbye Daughters of the Revolution".
  • Walter Mathau's final line in Grumpy Old Men is "The Daughters of the American Revolution are having a dance at the VFW Hall".

See also[]

This list contains related U.S. organizations.

  • Children of the American Revolution (C.A.R.)
  • The Colonial Dames of America
  • DAR Constitution Hall (a building owned by the society)
  • Daughters of the Republic of Texas
  • The Mayflower Society
  • The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America
  • Sons of Confederate Veterans
  • Sons of the American Revolution (SAR)
  • Sons of the Revolution (SR)
  • Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War
  • United Daughters of the Confederacy

There is one related organization in Canada that is similar to the DAR and SAR.

  • United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada


  1. ^ a b c preserving historical properties and artifacts and promoting patriotism within their communities. "Become a Member". Daughters of the American Revolution., preserving historical properties and artifacts and promoting patriotism within their communities.. 
  2. ^ "DAR Supported Schools". DAR. Retrieved 2007-11-08. 
  3. ^ "Work of the Society: DAR Schools". DAR. Retrieved 2009-07-29. 
  4. ^ "American History Essay". DAR. Retrieved 2007-11-08. 
  5. ^ "Scholarships". DAR. Retrieved 2007-11-08. 
  6. ^ "Literacy Promotion". DAR. Retrieved 2007-11-08. 
  7. ^ "Exhibit: Eleanor Roosevelt Letter". NARA. 1939-02-26. Retrieved 2006-10-08. 
  8. ^ a b "Marian Anderson at the MET: The 50th Anniversary, Early Career". The Metropolitan Opera Guild, Inc.. 2005. Retrieved 2006-10-08. 
  9. ^ "D.A.R. NOW INVITES MARIAN ANDERSON; Singer, Barred From Capital Hall in 1939, Is Asked to Give First of War Aid Concerts". New York Times. 1942-09-30. pp. Obits. pp. 25. Retrieved 2006-10-08. 
  10. ^ Kennedy Center, "Biography of Marian Anderson".
  11. ^ "Marian Anderson at the MET: The 50th Anniversary, Late Life". The Metropolitan Opera Guild, Inc.. 2005. Retrieved 2006-10-08. 
  12. ^ "Legendary Singer Marian Anderson Returns to Constitution Hall On U.S. Postage Stamp" (Press release). United States Postal Service. 2005-01-04. Retrieved 2006-10-08. 
  13. ^ "Karen Farmer", American Libraries 39 (February 1978), p. 70; Negro Almanac, pp. 73,1431; Who's Who among Africans, 14th ed., p. 405.
  14. ^ Northumberland County in the American Revolution, 1976, pp. 156, 171.
  15. ^ Stevens, William K. (1977-12-28). "A Detroit Black Woman's Roots Lead to a Welcome in the D.A.R.; Black Woman's Roots Lead to a Welcome in D.A.R". The New York Times. 
  16. ^ a b Kessler, Ronald (1984-03-12). "Black Unable to Join Local DAR". Washington Post. pp. 1. 
  17. ^ a b c d e f "Dazzling Daughters, 1890-2004". Americana Collection exhibit. DAR. Retrieved 2006-10-08. 
  18. ^ Hunter, Ann Arnold, A Century of Service: The Story of the DAR, p. 63
  19. ^ Meet Our Deans


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[]

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