Celebrating the Chicago Chapter's 125th Anniversary

Written by: Lynn Young, President General
May 2, 2016

I arrived in Chicago on Saturday night, March 12, to join in the celebration of our first chapter’s 125th anniversary.  And what a celebration it was!  The Chicago Chapter’s 125th Anniversary Celebration and Afternoon Tea was held on Sunday afternoon at the Drake Hotel, site of many of the chapter’s special events.  I enjoyed a fabulous view from my room of Magnificent Mile and Lake Shore Drive at the stunning Drake Hotel, built in 1920.

A Reception was held in The French Room beginning at noon on March 13 where Chapter Regent Traci L. Martinez, State Regent Sharon C. Frizzell and I greeted the 270 guests from 61 chapters in 16 states in the receiving line.  Even the State Attorney General, Lisa Madigan, attended. It was amazing to see the chapter’s original charter, minute books and scrapbooks from as early as 1891 and old photographs among the marvelous exhibits highlighting the history of the chapter.  I was thrilled to receive a copy of the book, “Articles and Artifacts from the Archives” compiled by Chapter Historian Peggy Forney Becker for the Chapter’s 125 year history.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel proclaimed Sunday, March 13th, 2016, as National Society Daughters of the American Revolution Day in Chicago.  The proclamation "urged all Chicagoans to always remember and reaffirm the ideals and freedoms set forth by this world renowned society."

The anniversary tea was beautifully planned by committee chair Jennifer Sutton Brieva and members B.A. Church and Karen Seda.  Held in the Gold Coast Room, most of the members and guests wore lovely hats and a few were in period attire.  Nicee Martin of Miss Motley Photography even had us recreate a photo taken on the same date in the same room in 1958 at another chapter celebration.

The Chicago Chapter currently has 250 members and is the largest chapter in Illinois. Regent Traci Martinez welcomed the guests and led a champagne toast then invited me to bring greetings.  I had managed to lose my voice and was grateful Treasurer General Martha Barnhart could bring greetings on my behalf. A scrumptious tea of carrot ginger soup, scones, finger sandwiches and pastries was served after State Regent Sharon Frizzell’s greetings.

A history of the Chicago Chapter was presented by Peggy Forney Becker, Chapter Historian.  I am familiar with the story of how the Washington papers referred to the early members of the DAR as “foolhardy women” for purchasing the property on 17th and D Streets, and we were amused to hear Peggy read a newspaper article written almost 30 years later stating,

“The Daughters of the American Revolution have wisely decided to build a new auditorium, to cost about $2,000,000, on the ground owned by them at the rear of Continental Memorial Hall.  The hall has been outgrown for the purpose of the annual congress and it was a choice between building an auditorium or renting temporary and unsatisfactory quarters every year…“Unlike the Congress of the United States, the D.A.R. is thrifty and forehanded.  It looks into the future and saves money hereby by timely expenditure now. …Congress, composed of men, could well take a lesson in thrift from the thirty-fourth congress of the D.A.R., composed of women.”

Foolhardy women indeed!

Among the interesting history of the chapter:

  • Bertha Honoré Palmer (of the Chicago Palmer House family) helped found the Chicago Chapter DAR, and later learned that she did not qualify to belong to DAR. She was appointed President of the Lady Board of Managers for 1893 World’s Fair.  Mary Smith Lockwood served on Mrs. Palmer’s Lady Managers board.
  • One applicant, Miss Marian Rolins, was apparently so eager to join she used the application from of the Sons of the American Revolution, striking through “Sons” and writing “Daughters.”
  • A member chaired the committee to build Memorial Continental Hall and the Chicago Chapter was the first chapter to donate $500 toward our first building
  • Collected comfort items for hospitalized veterans and prisoners of war overseas, starting with the Spanish American War in 1898
  • Raised funds for 8 ambulances for WWI
  • Because of overcrowding in D.C. during World War II, Continental Congress was held in Chicago in 1942
  • When the United States became involved in the Spanish American War the chapter collected hospital supplies and organized sewing circles to make garments for the wounded men.  The Chicago Chapter recruited and endorsed 51 nurses. Of that number 25 were appointed to work with Dr. Anita Newcomb McGee the first director of the DAR Hospital corps which led to the Army Nurse Corps.  

Emmy Award winner, composer and motivational speaker Brian D. Siewert entertained us, beginning with his comment that “HODAR’s have the worst title.” With a theme of the “Wow Factor,” he mentioned that DAR members are revolting against complacency and that we make a difference in the lives we touch.  He relayed the story of a longtime friend who lost most of his family during the Holcaust, yet lives by the motto of “Life is good.”  We were very surprised to find this friend in the audience and all stood and applauded him.

The grand celebration closed with a historic benediction.  Our Founders would be so proud to see the lovely women of the Chicago Chapter!

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