04/08/13 at 5:08 pm
The DAR is a closed group based in the USA and there are two stipulations for membership. Firstly, members can only be female. Secondly, that they are able to prove that they are direct descendants of people who took part in the Revolutionary War of the 1770s. It claims to have had 850,000 members within its ranks since its foundation and it proudly counts many of the great and the good within its ranks. Here is a list of some of the most famous members ever to have joined the organisation.
1. Ginger Rogers
The famous American actress and dancer best known for being dance partner to Fred Astaire in such silver screen classics as The Gay Divorcee and Night and Day, died in 1995. During the Second World War, she was one the highest paid female stars in Hollywood. She also won an Oscar during the war years for her part in Kitty Foyle. In her career she made over 70 films; her final screen role was Harlow in 1965.
2. Clara Barton
In life she was a teacher, a nurse and notable humanitarian; but her greatest accomplishment in life was founding the American Red Cross, a charitable organisation that helps victims of war and natural disasters. She is notable as being one of only a few women to have worked on the front lines during the American Civil War after her father told her it was her “Christian duty” to help people, soon working her way up the ranks in nursing. For this service, she acquired the nickname “Angel of the Battlefield”.
3. Mary Baker Eddy
Eddy is best known for founding the Christian Science movement but she was also a prolific writer, including sole authorship of the church’s founding texts. She attracted many critics during her life, especially from Mark Twain. Yet these detractors and their criticisms did not stop her being noted as one of the most important women in American history; in 2002 she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. On the orders of the church, her ancestral home was destroyed to stop it becoming a place of pilgrimage.
4. Lucy Maynard Salmon
She was already an accomplished historical researcher in 1887 when she was approached by Vassar College to found their History department. She introduced something considered modern in approach by presenting primary sources and encouraging children, not simply to memories events and dates, but to examine their authority and bias. She also sought to introduce sources from the everyday lives of normal people. Salmon was a prolific writer and was later given the prestige of election into the American Historical Association, soon becoming the first woman on its Executive Council.
5. Caroline Harrison
One of several First Ladies to join the ranks of the DAR, she was wife to Benjamin Harrison, President between 1889 and 1893. She was very proactive in the role, successfully petitioning for money for renovation of the White House and personally oversaw the work during those years. During the Civil War, she joined groups helping in the war effort, especially those for wounded soldiers and their rehabilitation. She died in 1892, just one year before her husband would lose the Presidency.
6. Laura Welch Bush
Another former First Lady, Laura is the wife of former President George W Bush who was in the role between 2000 and 2008. Spending most of her early career as a teacher and a librarian, as First Lady she became active in educational standards, regularly speaking out about the need for high quality of teaching in schools. Along with the Library of Congress, she launched the National Book Festival in 2001. Later on in her tenure, she would be named as honorary ambassador for the UN Decade of Literacy in honour of her work.
7. Margaret Rhea Seddon
Seddon is known as one of the first women ever to have been selected by NASA for the space programme. During her career she flew three times on the space shuttle but she had already had a number of roles within the Administration, mostly around medical research. After retiring from NASA, she returned to her career as a medical researcher and now lives in Tennessee where she is Assistant Chief Medical Officer at Vanderbilt.
8. Karen Batchelor Farmer
In 1977, Farmer was the first black admission into the DAR. She was not famous before this but was a keen researcher into her family tree and traced it back to the Revolutionary War, something that came as a surprise to herself. Her ancestor served in the Pennsylvania Militia and is recorded at the defence of Fort Freeland. Following her admission into the DAR, she helped to establish a genealogical charity to help fellow black people research their family history.
9. Rosalynn Carter
The third and final First Lady on our list, she is wife of former President Jimmy Carter. She also used her husband’s period in office to advocate for many worthy causes, including changing attitudes on mental health in the public perception. In 1984 she became an honorary member of the American Psychiatric Association for her work. There is a Fellowship named in her honour that seeks to train journalists to promote good reporting on mental health and remove the stigma attached to it.
10. Bo Derek
Bo Derek is best known for her early roles as Jane in the Tarzan films of the 1970s and 1980s. Though she acts only rarely these days, she is still involved in the film industry working as a writer, producer and director. In her life she has been involved in a lot of charitable work, especially those concerning wounded veterans, something that is dear to her heart as her father and late husband served in the military.
The organisation’s website says that it is “open to all women, regardless of race or religion” and clearly, members come from all walks of life with a variety of experiences. And now, with international branches, nationality is not limited to women born in the USA. How many future leaders of the USA might come from within these ranks?