On Saturday, July 17, over 100 women attended an afternoon tea to celebrate an important milestone for the Springfield chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) – its 126th anniversary. COVID delayed the plans for the 125th anniversary. The Springfield chapter has 119 members, continues to grow and supports many worthy causes.
It was in 1890 when four women in Washington, D.C., started the DAR. The first National Regent was Caroline Harrison, wife of President Benjamin Harrison. Today, there are over 185,000 members in 3,000 chapters, including chapters in all 50 states and in 14 foreign countries. Since its founding, over one million women have joined the organization. The DAR headquarters in D.C. is the largest property owned by women in the world.
The Springfield chapter was formed in 1895 by 24 women, many from prominent families, and many were related. There were sisters, Grace, Frances and Julia Yates, and sisters-in-law such as Kate Chatterton Hickox (her father owned Chatterton Opera House) and Louise Broadwell Hickox (her brother owned Broadwell Drug Store). Katherine Hay Brown was the granddaughter of Stephen Logan, Lincoln's law partner. Mary Lewis, whose father was Obed, lived in the house that is now part of Obed and Isaac's Microbrewery. Josephine Remann Edwards and her husband, Albert, who was Mary Todd Lincoln's nephew, lived in the Lincoln home as custodians. A wonderful booklet giving information about each of the founding women has been compiled by Mary Barringer, a longtime member of DAR, and Lynda Kerstein.
At the celebration, the group welcomed the new State Regent (president), Debbie Coe from Rochester. State Regents begin their terms at the national convention, called the Continental Congress. Each State Regent chooses a project during her two-year term. Coe has chosen Wreaths Across America, focusing on remembering the 2,500 soldiers buried at Camp Butler National Cemetery.
The speaker at the event was Mike Kienzler, on staff at the Sangamon County Historical Society and editor of the SangamonLink local history website, who told stories of some of the founding women and their contributions to Springfield. For example, Elizabeth Ide, who lived to be 104, supported education and health care for children. Savillah Hinrichsen was the president of the Sangamon County Equal Suffrage Club and was one of only 12 women registered to vote in 1908 when women were allowed to vote for University of Illinois trustees.
DAR is open to any woman who can show a relationship to the Revolutionary War. Susan Meister, Springfield Chapter Regent, says, "A connection doesn't have to trace back to a soldier; there are many other ways that people supported the war, such as furnishing supplies or giving a horse to a military unit. Extensive research is conducted to find documentation of a person in one's family who had some connection to the war." For some women, finding the connection is easy if a family member is already in DAR. For others, it requires digging into genealogy that might take a long time.
The women wear ribbons attached to their clothes over their heart, and on it they place a collection of pins. These include the bar representing their chapter and the DAR wheel and distaff logo. Then, they pin on Patriot pins; each pin represents a connection of the woman to the Revolutionary War. "Some have one Patriot pin; others have many," Barringer says. "Some women continue to do genealogical research and find more connections. Each connection earns a new Patriot pin." Barringer's ribbon includes eight Patriot pins.
DAR is involved in many projects, either through the national, state or local organization. The DAR motto is "God, Home, Country," and there are three areas of focus: patriotism, historic preservation and education. The group sponsors the Good Citizen Award; each high school chooses one senior who then is invited to enter the national essay contest that awards a college scholarship.
The DAR erects historical markers, supports Veterans Day events and Honor Flights, hosts workshops and provides scholarships for high school seniors planning to pursue a degree in education, medicine, history or economics. The Illinois chapters helped raise money for the rose garden during the restoration of the Governor's Mansion and recently donated money for the window replacement of the cottage at the Dana-Thomas House historic site. In the past, they refurbished the Madonna of the Trail monument in Vandalia and helped restore historical markers along the circuit traveled by Abraham Lincoln.
The Springfield chapter collects supplies for the teachers in the chapter, lays wreaths at graves and holds meetings with speakers.
Coe, a member of DAR for over 20 years, is looking forward to her term as State Regent. "Illinois is a big state, and we have 103 chapters with 7,900 members. So I will be busy. No matter where you go, when wearing your DAR pin, people start conversations, and suddenly you find small world connections."
Cinda Ackerman Klickna recently discovered her fourth great-grandfather fought in the Revolutionary War, and so she is starting the process to become a DAR member.