DAR conference attracts 3,300 members to D.C.

By Ann Garlick August 01, 2009 12:37 pm

Yessir!  I’d come to the right place. As my luggage and I headed toward the hotel’s imposing entrance, Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy emerged, giving us a nod and a smile as he walked down the street. Perhaps I could nail some VIPS to  tell them what was wrong with the government these days and how to fix it! They tell me D.C is good for VIP viewing.

The J.W. Marriott, one of D.C.’s most prestigious (on Pennsylvania Avenue, of course), was where much of the coming week’s action would take place during the 118th annual National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR) Congress last month. I was there as regent of an Oregon DAR chapter, and only one of some 3,300 “daughters”  who converged on the nation's capital for a round of conferences, social events and workshops.

Most events were held in the society's historic National Landmark  set of buildings. The oldest dates from 1906-7 and  all are undergoing renovation.

Chartered in 1892 by Congress, the DAR has grown from a handful of determined and patriotic women into the world’s largest totally volunteer-run philanthropic organization to be  run by women. With 165,395 current members  in 2,139 chapters, DAR has two concerns: Internal projects including preservation of the nation’s colonial and Revolutionary-era history while tracking down and listing all “patriots” of the period.

Outreach programs include active financial support of many schools, hospitals, and active and retired military needs. Through scholarships, recognition of outstanding teachers and contests for students in Good Citizenship and American History topics, the DAR maintains philanthropic outreach programs.

Women's issues are also important, and among the earliest women to join the group were a number of noted women’s rights advocates of the day. This past year, the society bestowed gifts totaling $1,221,199 in support of these objectives.

Back home,  chapter members support both state and national operations as well as local ones. Many states and local chapters help support regional and local causes. Outreach to schools and students is generally handled on the local chapter levels, as is ongoing support for various military and veteran needs.

Historically, NSDAR has often been in the forefront of, or generated projects dealing with national emergencies and war-time situations. For example, the Army Nurse Corps began life in 1895 as the DAR Hospital Corps. At the time DAR was founded, ancestor-seeking was a popular American pastime. DAR  had a similar base.

Founded by determined women after being rejected for associate membership in the SAR (Sons of the American Revolution,) it also required that  members be able to trace their lineage back to Revolutionary times. The ancestor must have participated in the war in some way, not necessarily in military service.

Information on the DAR is available on various DAR Web sites and locally on public service television or from a DAR member. Del Norte County has a new one, one of two new ones in California, which holds some kind of record for its numerous chapters.

Ann Terrill Garlick is a veteran, award-winning journalist and a native Californian. She spent nearly 23 years as one of the editors at the Orange County Register.