I am a member of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution ( NSDAR or DAR for short) and to be a member of this organization, you must have a proven ancestor who fought in the American Revolution. My mother dug into genealogy (ha ha) when I was a child, and she was able to join the DAR and subsequently, put me into CAR (Children) where I remained a member until the age of 18 and then I dutifully joined DAR in 1982. There is an SAR (Sons) too if you were wondering. NSDAR has about 180,000 members and there are over 18,000 just in Texas. The NSDAR national headquarters encompasses an entire city block in Washington DC and is just around the corner from the White House. You’ve heard of Constitution Week? Well you can thank the DAR for petitioning Congress in 1955 for that and President Eisenhower signing it into law.
DAR is an amazing organization of which I’m very proud to be a part. We stand for historical preservation, conservation of historical sites, community service, education, and above all else American patriotism. My local chapter, the Susanna Dickinson Chapter, meets monthly in the East Central School Museum and they are an incredible group of ladies who do everything from sponsor the DAR Good Citizen Essay Contest at East Central High School ($100 award), to placing flags on veterans’ graves at Sayer Salem Cemetery, to doing field trips to local historical sites, and attending US Naturalization ceremonies when they are held in downtown San Antonio.
This past weekend was the 119th Texas State DAR State Conference held at the Hyatt Regency in San Antonio on the Riverwalk. Over 1,000 Texas Daughters descended on downtown in full splendor a to attend business meetings, present state awards ($1,000 to History Teacher of the Year – a Brit of all things! ha ha He found the humor as well), and honor distinguished military veterans. The conference began on Wednesday with the Boy Scouts of America doing a flag retirement ceremony in front of the Alamo.
It was such a moving ceremony that at times I got teary. It was so wonderful to see young people lead hundreds of spectators in the Pledge of Allegiance and then one by one, talk about the history and meaning of our flag. The proper way to dispose of a flag is to burn it and bury the ashes, but with no burning allowed on Alamo grounds, they cut the flag into 4 sections, leaving the blue field of stars intact to show unity of states as a country and then reverently folded the 4 sections into a box to be burned later. I’ve never seen it done like this and it was very nicely and respectfully performed.
They marched in and out as a complete color guard and it was simply wonderful to be there.
At the conference, I was a committee of One and in charge of Meal Greeters for the entire week. I had the dubious honor of making sure that only those who paid for their meals got into breakfasts, brunches, lunches, teas, receptions, and formal dinners. I live about 30 miles from the hotel and made the trip back and forth every day from Wednesday through Sunday. Some days I had plenty of volunteers in place and others I was checking tags myself but I was there from dark until …dark. When a breakfast begins at 6:30am, I had to get up a 4:00am to get there in time. The only reason I did this was because my former chapter Regent was a co-chair of the conference organizing committee and I promised her my full support over a year ago when she agreed to the assignment. She stayed in the hotel but at over $150 a night, I decided to drive back and forth. If you have vertigo, skip the next image of inside the hotel from above. That’s the San Antonio Riverwalk just outside the glass windows below.
We were honored to have Mrs. Gregg Abbott, the Texas Governor’s wife, join us for our Educational Awards luncheon. That little doll on the head table is wearing a replica of the gown she wore at her husband’s inauguration. Texas State DAR is sponsoring a historical display of all Texas First Lady’s gowns at Texas Women’s University in Denton, and there were 48 hand made miniature gowns on display at the conference that were made by Texas Daughters. A raffle was held to help fund the display. You know I really wanted to win all those doll dresses. Sorry, no photo but here’s Mrs. Abbott.
One of the Fiesta events my chapter attends every year is the Pilgrimage to the Alamo. Fiesta San Antonio is a huge 10-day long celebration that is the largest party in the country. It was second only to Mardi Gras in New Orleans until Hurricane Katrina. Fiesta occurs every April and it is the celebration of Texas’ independence from Mexico. There are parades of all kinds, night parties, historical displays, and a gazillion other events during the celebration. They even shut down local schools for the Battle of Flowers parade. The Pilgrimage is a very somber event held during the daytime where hundreds of people gather in their respective groups – everything from the Scouts, to the Junior League, to the 4H…you name it – and we walk in silence about a mile through the streets of downtown San Antonio to lay wreaths at the Alamo. As we walk into Alamo Plaza, the names of the patriots who died there during the Battle of the Alamo (1836) are read over a loud speaker and there are thousands of spectators all over the plaza. In attendance, there’s usually a Texas Congressman and/or Senator, general officers and colonels from the local military installations, and a full herd of ladies in yellow dresses and hats from the Daughters of the Republic of Texas (descendants of Texas patriots). We, the DAR, are frequently confused with them, the DRT. They have the Alamo; we have the Constitution. 😉 So there!
During this Fiesta event, members of my group attend in full colonial costume. Have you ever been horrified to discover that you have turned into the parent who embarrassed you beyond belief as a teen? It happened to me this weekend. Enter Simplicity 4092.
During certain DAR events throughout my life, my mother would go in costume. I was mortified by this and tried to stay as far from her as possible to disavow any relation to that whack job across the room. She loved every minute of it – from the sewing to the display and she usually wore something she pattern drafted herself that was more of a dress that would be worn at home. Not me. If I’m doing this, it will be as a lady of means by golly. As I’ve aged, I’ve learned to enjoy the freedom that being a bit older gives you. And by freedom, I mean I couldn’t care less what other people think. It’s so liberating! And it’s so FUN! Today I thank my mom for paving the way.
I decided to test out my new dress at the Education Awards luncheon at State Conference on Saturday. This gown took me about 3 months to sew. The pattern must have over a million pieces and the final product weighs about 20 pounds. The overskirt is a brocade I found stuffed on a roll in a back rack at Hancock’s about 3 years ago and the underskirt is a tone-on-tone drapery fabric. I couldn’t find the right shade of lace so I ordered white and tea dyed it. The fit of the bodice was a real challenge and while it fits, it’s not the most comfortable in the armseye. I imagine it would fit better with a corset, but I’m a seamstress, not a masochist. I stuffed the panniers with scraps of quilt batting. The pictures don’t do the dress justice. The green shimmers in the light along with the gold stripe and it’s really beautiful.
No showing of teeth when you smile. Ladies didn’t do that back then.
Moving around in that hoop was a true challenge. Sitting in one is its own form of misery. I have respect for my ancestors who suffered through fashion.
Y’all, this was an absolute BLAST! So many ladies wanted to know about the dress and I received a ton of compliments. One even asked me to make her one for $250…um’ no. I was the only one in costume during the Education Awards luncheon so I was besieged with Daughters who wanted selfies. It was a relief, because these women are sticklers for historical accuracy. Non-convention goers wanted to know why I was dressed like that and I was able to share information about DAR.
Here are the ladies from my chapter before the luncheon began. The only downside to these dresses is that by the time you add the hoop and panniers, you’re as broad as a Chevy Suburban. 😀 It was a fabulous time and I can’t wait to wear it again next month for Fiesta!
If you are interested in learning more about DAR, please visit their website linked above or if you are local, message me. I’m the Chapter Registrar and help perspectives complete their applications. You need your first three generations of birth certificates, death certificates, and marriage licenses. DAR can help from there. If you are interested in SAR, I can point you in the right direction too.