Inside this Issue
Glimpse into the lives and passions of the diverse group of women who comprise today’s DAR membership.
Take a step inside the DAR Museum for a closer look at its fascinating collection.
Learn about the interesting historical articles from this issue.
To Come in Our Next Issue
Preview the exciting stories to be featured in the next issue of American Spirit.
By Lena Anthony
Photograph courtesy of Laura Murphy
Volume 149, Number 2, March/April 2015, Page 4
Controlled chaos. That’s how Laura Murphy describes her job as director of the Washington Legislative Office for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), where she oversees a team of lobbyists, researchers and administrative staff responsible for advancing the ACLU’s public policy priorities on a wide variety of issues.
For every victory there are even more defeats, but Mrs. Murphy credits her optimism and perspective for being able to deal with them. “Defeat is part of the job,” she says. “It took 100 years for women to earn the right to vote. We’re just itty-bitty dots in the making of history.”
It’s easy to see where her drive comes from. Her parents were community and political leaders in Baltimore whose lives were dedicated to mobilizing black voters and reversing segregation laws. In her immediate family alone, she can count 14 runs for public office. “When my parents couldn’t find a sitter but had to campaign, I would tag along,” Mrs. Murphy says. “I took part in countless dinnertime debates about what it meant to be free and equal.”
Meanwhile, her journalist uncle, George Murphy, encouraged her to read The New York Times when she was 9. “Every time he visited, he would want to know what I thought about the news,” she recalls. “He was a huge influence on my life.”
By the time she was a young teen, she and her brother were the ones doing the campaigning, and at the age of 15, she started her own organization to register voters and get out the vote. After graduating from Wellesley College, Mrs. Murphy became one of the youngest legislative assistants on Capitol Hill, working first for U.S. Rep. Parren Mitchell, the first black congressman from Maryland, and then for U.S. Rep. Shirley Chisholm of New York. From there, she was recruited by the ACLU to be a lobbyist on civil and women’s rights.
The pressures of the job make her spare time scarce. “My day doesn’t end at 5 p.m.,” she says. “Staff, press and coalition partners call after hours, before hours and on weekends, so I’m always on. I have to work really hard to squeeze in a few moments of quiet time whenever I can because even personal plans can get interrupted.”
When her schedule is open, she enjoys cooking with her 25-year-old son, Bertram Lee, whom she says serves as her sous chef. “We make a great team in the kitchen,” says Mrs. Murphy.
She also enjoys hiking and roaming around the Smithsonian with her husband, Bill Psillas, and tapping into her inner Martha Stewart. “I like to garden and make jewelry, and I love to set a pretty table,” she says. “I’m looking forward to the day when I have more time to do that.”
A member of the Ruth Brewster Chapter, Washington, D.C., Mrs. Murphy is also looking forward to getting more involved with DAR. Until then, she appreciates the characteristics she shares with her Patriot, Philip Livingston, who was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. “He was very active in the political debates of the day and was considered by many to be a radical,” she says, “so I think I have excellent DNA to do this work.”
It was Mrs. Murphy’s mother who encouraged her to join the DAR. “Just before she died in 2007, she told me I should go for it,” Mrs. Murphy says. “She thought that having our family history included in the DAR records would broaden people’s minds about what it means to be an American."
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Photography courtesy of Mark Gulezian/Quicksilver
Volume 149, Number 2, March/April 2015, Page 5
An award of merit and a silk streamer/bookmark verify Sarah Elizabeth Moughon’s attendance at the Lydia English Female Seminary in Washington, D.C. The well-known Georgetown school was founded in 1826 by Lydia English, who served as principal for more than 30 years.
The certificate dated February 11, 1847, rewarded Sarah’s “diligence and attention to her studies.” Eighteen-year-old Sarah, a student from Columbus, Ga., cherished these mementos of her education. Her great-granddaughter donated these items to the DAR Museum, noting that Sarah made the streamer at the seminary.
Teachers and principals gave awards of merit to students both to encourage and reward their scholastic efforts. Rewards for excellence in scholarship, specific subjects, attendance, conduct, deportment and other achievements were not uncommon. Whether handwritten, printed, painted in watercolor, or engraved in silver or other metals, awards like these were important to 18th- and 19th-century children and their parents.
For more National Treasures, please visit the DAR Museum's Featured Objects.
True Patriotic Women by Tracy E. Robinson
Examining the lives of the four DAR Founders—Mary Desha, Mary Smith Lockwood, Ellen Hardin Walworth and Eugenia Washington—as well as other crucial early members, reveals much about the ideals of the Progressive Era.
A Remarkable American Woman by Bill Hudgins
Esther Reed, founder of the Ladies Association of Philadelphia, raised significant funds to better the lives of long-suffering Continental soldiers.
Stitches in Time by Alden O’Brien
Genealogy and family oral history help uncover details behind the making of the beautiful quilts in the DAR Museum’s extensive collection.
The Founding of a Fashion Plate by Maureen Taylor
Launched in 1830 and edited by Sarah Hale, Godey’s Lady’s Book’s hand-tinted fashion plates were just one of the reasons the female-focused publication was considered the most-read magazine of the mid-19th century.
Clementina Rind, Virginia’s Patriot Printer by Ben Swenson
Sole printer of The Virginia Gazette after her husband’s death, Rind showed that Colonial women were as full of Revolutionary zeal as their male counterparts.
The Dawn of Revolution by Bill Hudgins
The Stamp Act—250 years old this year—aroused Americans to defend their liberties, giving birth to an era of resistance.
Spirited Adventures: St. Michael’s, Md. by Lena Anthony
One of Colonial America’s major shipbuilding centers, St. Michaels gained a name as “the town that fooled the British” during the War of 1812.
Genealogy Sleuth: Felicity or Harriet? by Nancy Mann Jackson
A deeper understanding of Colonial naming choices and patterns can help genealogy researchers derive clues about family backgrounds.
Our Patriots: Mary Hays McCauley by Sharon McDonnell
Often mistaken for the fictional Molly Pitcher, McCauley earned the title of Patriot by serving with distinction at the Valley Forge encampment.
Bookshelf reviews Liberty’s Torch: The Great Adventure to Build the Statue of Liberty by Elizabeth Mitchell
Plus: President General’s Message and Whatnot
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To Come in May/June 2015
Constitution Hall: Planning for the Future of a Historic Gathering Place
Our Patriots: Bernardo de Galvez
Benson Lossing’s Revolutionary Travelogue
Spirited Adventures: Pensacola, Fla.