“Daughters conserve the virtues of their ancestors.”

I’ve blogged several times about women’s history and art at cultural sites in the DC area (at the US Capitol here and here, the American Red Cross Headquarters, the General Federation of Women’s Clubs Headquarters, National Museum of Women in the Arts, and Sewall-Belmont House).

There are other sites about which I have not written as much. Two museums, in DC proper, belong to women’s hereditary organizations: the Daughters of the American Revolution Museum, and Dumbarton House, which is maintained by the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America (NSCDA).

Both the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR) and NSCDA require members to have lineage to a prominent figure in our nation’s early history (specific requirements are detailed on their websites). My mother grew up attending meetings of her grandmother’s chapter of the DAR. NSDAR’s mission focuses on “promoting patriotism, preserving American history, and securing America’s future through better education for children,” and NSCDA is “devoted to furthering an appreciation of our national heritage through historic preservation, patriotic service, and educational projects.” NSCDA proclaims in its motto:

Virtutes Majorum Filiae Conservant”; Daughters conserve the virtues of their ancestors.

Dumbarton House

Dumbarton House

The importance of education to each organization can be seen in the two museums. Both museums (which I visited in 2009) interpret American history for visitors. Dumbarton House is a historic house museum in Georgetown, whose owners included Joseph Nourse and Charles Carroll. Its most famous women’s history-related event took place in 1814, when First Lady Dolley Madison fled from British troops attacking the White House and found refuge at Dumbarton House. Today, the museum provides guided tours for visitors and also has a temporary exhibit space.

DAR Museum grounds

DAR Museum grounds

Like Dumbarton House, the DAR Museum offers guided tours of the period rooms; however, the DAR Museum is not a historic house. Instead, a number of states were each given one room to furnish and decorate to reflect the state’s history. A virtual tour can be found here. The museum also has an exhibition space for self-guided viewing. When I visited, the current exhibit at the time explored the Seven Deadly Sins, as portrayed in decorative arts objects from the museum’s collection.

Happy Women’s History Month!


About Laura

Paralegal with Master of Arts in Teaching in Museum Education, frequent museum visitor, based in Washington, DC. I care about what museums can do, both in terms of public offerings and internal practices, to make the world a better place. I blog about museum education ("informed"), the social work of museums ("humane"), and visitor experience ("citizenry").
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