Daughters of the American Revolution

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Daughters of the American Revolution


The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) is generally known as the oldest and largest womens lineal descent-based patriotic organization in the United States. Although the DAR, often regarded as an innocuous social club, has not attracted much attention from scholars until recently, it played a significant role in the formation of modern U.S. nationalism and national identity, particularly during the first half of the twentieth century.

The DAR was established in October 1890 by a group of upper- and middle-class women in Washington, D.C., after their failed bid to join in the founding of a similar ancestral organization, the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR), in the previous year. Although the DARs membership was originally restricted to adult female (and white) descendents of those who had served in one capacity or another for the cause of American Independence, the group was quick to seek nationwide recognition and membership. The origins of this ancestral, patriotic organization are multifarious. During the late nineteenth century, increased immigration from South and East Europe, labor and agrarian conflicts, and American expansion overseas caused many people in the United States to question who they were. More broadly, the United States was at the time emerging as a modern nation state whose people were beginning to share a sense of American identity. The formation of national identity was facilitated by improvements in mass communication and transportation, the growth of a national market and public schooling, and the increasing power of the state over peoples daily lives. It was against this backdrop that the DAR, despite its traditional hereditary exclusiveness, was simultaneously able to promote among the general public a rather modern, abstract vision of loyalty to the nation.

The constitution of the DAR mentioned three main objectives of the society: (1) to perpetuate the memory and spirit of the men and women who achieved American Independence; (2) to promote institutions of learning so that the young and old can develop the largest capacity for performing the duties of American Citizens; and (3) to cherish, maintain, and extend the institutions of American freedom and to foster true patriotism and love of country. Based on these ideals, the DAR engaged in various activities such as sponsoring historical restoration projects, distributing pamphlets to immigrants on how to become good American citizens, and publishing patriotic materials for schoolchildren.

The organizational motto of the DAR, God, Home, and Country, represented its proven political conservatism on issues like Christianity, gender and family relations, and communism. Yet a closer analysis of the DAR and its activities reveals some seeming contradictions, such as tolerance toward immigrants (who were seen as objects of Americanization) coupled with (until recently) exclusivist policies on many racial matters. Thus the DAR is best seen not just as a typical conservative organization but as a mirror reflecting the differentiating and hierarchical nature of modern nationalism.

SEE ALSO American Revolution; Americanism; Conservatism; Immigration; Inequality, Gender; Nationalism and Nationality; Nation-State; Patriotism; Racism; Symbols


Hunter, Ann Arnold. 1991. A Century of Service: The Story of the DAR. Washington, DC: National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

McConnell, Stuart. 1996. Reading the Flag: A Reconsideration of the Patriotic Cults of the 1890s. In Bonds of Affection: Americans Define Their Patriotism, ed. John Bodnar. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Medlicott, Carol. 2004. Autograph of a Nation: The Daughters of the American Revolution and the National Old Trails Road, 1910-1927. National Identities 6 (3) 233260.

Morgan, Francesca Constance. 1998. Home and Country: Women, Nation, and the Daughters of the American Revolution, 1890-1939. PhD diss., New York: Columbia University.

Ken Chujo

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DAUGHTERS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION. Eugenia Washington, Mary Desha, Mary Lockwood, and Ellen Hardin Walworth founded the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) on 11 October 1890. To be eligible for membership one must provide documentation of descent from an ancestor who provided service to the cause of American independence. With approximately 3,000 chapters and 175,000 members, the DAR has by far the largest membership of all the women's patriotic hereditary societies. The national headquarters of the DAR is located in Washington, D.C., and consists of Memorial Continental Hall, an administration building, and DAR Constitution Hall.

The goals of the DAR are to preserve the memory of those who fought for independence, to foster patriotism, and to promote educated citizenship. To achieve these goals the DAR has engaged in a number of activities throughout its existence. To preserve history, the society has collected 33,000 decorative and fine arts objects, which are housed in the DAR Museum at the national headquarters complex in Washington, D.C. In 1941 the DAR established the Americana Collection, which consists of manuscripts and imprints from the colonial period, the Revolutionary War era, and the early republic. To stimulate patriotism, members began an extensive program in 1910 to aid immigrants in becoming citizens. Since 1921 the DAR has published the DAR Manual for Citizen-ship, and its members participate in naturalization ceremonies. The society sponsors essay contests and awards scholarships to promote good citizenship. It also supports schools in remote mountain areas where there had previously been no educational institutions for children.

During its first three decades the DAR was just one of the many women's organizations founded in the Progressive Era. In the 1920s it distinguished itself by its militant opposition to the pacifist movement that arose after World War I. In 1939 the DAR provoked controversy by refusing to rent Constitution Hall for a concert by African American singer Marian Anderson; in 1943, however, it allowed Anderson to give a concert in the hall for the war effort. During the Cold War the DAR generally aligned itself with the American Legion and espoused a conservative anticommunist viewpoint. Since then, the organization has embraced diversity. Among its publications are books on African American and Indian patriots of the American Revolution.


Anderson, Peggy. The Daughters: An Unconventional Look at America's Fan Club—the DAR. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1974.

Hunter, Ann Arnold. A Century of Service: The Story of the DAR. Washington, D.C.: National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, 1991.

Bonnie L.Ford

See alsoAmerican Legion ; Colonial Dames of America ; Preservation Movement .

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Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), a Colonial patriotic society in the United States, open to women having one or more ancestors who aided the cause of the Revolution. The society was organized (1890) at Washington, D.C., and has its national headquarters at Memorial Continental Hall there. The society has done much for the preservation and marking of historic places. In politics, the DAR has been criticized for its conservative policies. There is a similar but unrelated organization known as the Daughters of the Revolution.

See studies by M. Strayer (1958, repr. 1973) and P. Anderson (1974).

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Daughters of the American Revolution in the US, a patriotic society whose aims include encouraging education and the study of US history and which tends to be politically conservative. Membership is limited to female descendants of those who aided the cause of independence. It was first organized in 1890.