Let’s agree that this group might have an image problem – and it all begins with the name: Daughters of the American Revolution.
Lisbeth Stockman joined the Mecklenburg Chapter of the DAR about five years ago, when her daughter left for college. She says it makes her crazy, what people say when she tells them she belongs to the DAR.
“They expect blue-haired ladies in gloves having tea,” she says. “I’m like, ‘No!’”
The Mecklenburg Chapter celebrates its 115th anniversary on Sept. 28, and the group’s members hope they can project an updated image – of an age-diverse group whose members put in hundreds of community service hours each year, support veterans in need and help fund schools for underprivileged children.
And, yes, they fight for historic preservation and encourage genealogical research.
“We’re not all about the past,” says Anne Glovier, the regent (president) of the Mecklenburg Chapter, North Carolina’s oldest DAR organization. “We’re as much about the present and the future.”
The chapter’s kickoff meeting for the 2013-14 year supported Stockman’s indignation about the DAR stereotypes: No gloves, no blue hair, no finger sandwiches.
Instead, committee leaders updated members about Constitution Week, which ends Monday, and the educational booklets, posters and bookmarks the chapter distributed to schools, free of charge. They talked about honoring Vietnam Veterans on the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War this fall. They received a report on how many pounds of food the chapter collected for Loaves and Fishes this year.
Mecklenburg DAR’s members range in age from their 20s to those who have belonged to the organization for more than 50 years, and most of the membership hovers around the late 40s and 50s. Many of these women work, and all share an intense interest in genealogy.
Gabriella Carsten, for instance, drives over from Union County to attend meetings. She serves as the chapter’s registrar – tracking new members while juggling the schedules of a sixth-grade daughter and fourth-grade son, plus coursework for her master’s in education from UNC Charlotte.
She caught the genealogy/history bug from her Charleston grandmother, who always wanted join the DAR but never did.
So Carsten attended a Mecklenburg DAR meeting when her kids were 3 and 5 (she needed something “adult” to do), “and I was hooked.”
She had to go back nine generations to find her patriot – which is what DAR members call an ancestor who performed some military or civil service during the Revolutionary War. She found Lewis Morris III, a brigadier general from New York, and Lewis Morris IV, a lieutenant colonel from South Carolina.
Table talk at the monthly DAR meeting and luncheon often turns to patriots. How many you have, how many you still must prove. Some women have found only one; some have found half a dozen. The Mecklenburg chapter has a volunteer genealogist, former educator Connie Shotts, who will help prospective members research their lineage.
“You really need someone who’s into genealogy to help you,” says Betty Lou Newcomb, who joined the DAR based on an aunt’s membership application. So she had to locate birth, marriage and death certificates for only one generation, to link her to the aunt’s lineage.
The Mecklenburg chapter has 177 women who have proven their connection to a Revolutionary War patriot. Four applications are pending approval in the national office, and 20 prospective members are working on their applications.
Nationally, the DAR has 175,000 members in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. And there are chapters across the globe – in France, Guam, Japan and elsewhere.
Proving your patriots
The Mecklenburg Chapter was founded on Sept. 27, 1898. Its first regent was Mary Ann Morrison Jackson, wife of Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson.
The group’s birthday party – birthday cake included – will be held at the Hezekiah Alexander House off Shamrock Drive, on the site of the Charlotte Museum of History, because preservation of that building is one of the Mecklenburg Chapter’s most significant projects. Alexander signed the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, and his home is the oldest structure in Charlotte still standing.
In 2014, the Mecklenburg DAR would like to make history again, Regent Glovier says. They want to get Jane Parks McDowell, wife of the Revolutionary War soldier, recognized as a patriot by the national DAR.
When Gen. Cornwallis’ troops moved through Charlotte in 1780, Jane Parks McDowell made her own version of Paul Revere’s ride. In the middle of the night, she rode 10 miles from her home in north Mecklenburg County – sidesaddle, with her infant child – to alert American troops near Huntersville.
“We’re gonna prove her,” Glovier says. “We want schoolchildren in Mecklenburg to be aware that we have those kinds of heroes.”
A passion for patriotism
Every meeting of the Mecklenburg DAR starts with the Pledge of Allegiance, the American Creed and the singing of National Anthem. The DAR’s motto is “God, Home and Country.”
Patriotism is part of the package here.
That’s what drew Newcomb to the DAR – and what continues to hold her there. She co-chairs the DAR Service for Veterans committee, raising money for the Veterans Administration hospital in Salisbury every year. Last year, she traded homemade pies for certain levels of giving, and ended up raising more than $1,500 to buy a new television, rockers for the hospice unit, and bird feeders for the hospital grounds.
(If she makes the offer again this year, the word is you should order the Japanese fruit pie. She makes her crusts from scratch.)
Glovier, who calls herself an Army brat and whose dad served in both Korea and Vietnam, says their DAR chapter’s support of veterans is very important to her.
In April, Vietnam War POW Quincy Collins will speak to the group about his experience. And the Mecklenburg Chapter of the DAR will do what they can to support him.
“I’m very proud,” she says, “of being part of an organization that does that.”
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