This exhibit celebrates the lives of women who are or were DAR members who have made significant and positive contributions to American or international culture, society, or history through diligent application of their unique talents and abilities. This Web site features just a portion of a list of over 120 Dazzling Daughters that includes several first ladies, writers, artists, educators, scientists, social reformers, entertainers, and many others. Click here to download the complete list (PDF).
Click each Daughter's name for more information. Starred Daughters include additional photographs or documents to view.
Women of the early nineteenth century were expected to reside exclusively in the sphere of domesticity limiting their role to nurturing mother, loving wife, and virtuous woman. However, beginning in the 1830s and strengthening with each subsequent decade, women began to move further into the public sphere.
(1839 – 1898)
Fort Dearborn Chapter, Illinois
Frances Willard is remembered as an academic, suffragist, and temperance reformer. In 1873 Willard had been serving as president of Evanston College for Ladies when it merged with Northwestern University, and she became the university’s first dean of women. After years of academic service she resigned in 1874 and turned her attention to social reform. Willard became the president of the National Women’s Christian Temperance Union in 1879 and held that position for the remainder of her life. Willard pushed for other forms of social reform, such as women’s suffrage, labor laws, rights for people of color, and health education. Today her statue stands in the U.S. Capitol, the first woman to be included in National Statuary Hall Collection. Her statue serves as a lasting tribute to her efforts as a social reformer.
On display: Portrait of Frances Willard (Library of Congress). Above: Photograph of Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol. (Library of Congress). Inset: Close-up of Frances Willard's statue. (NSDAR Archives)
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(1821 – 1912)
Chapter Affiliation Unknown, District of Columbia
Clara Barton is most well known for her work with the American Red Cross. At the beginning of the Civil War, Barton worked to obtain medical supplies to distribute to wounded soldiers. In July of 1862 she was granted permission to travel behind army lines to personally care for wounded soldiers. After the Civil War, Barton traveled to Europe where she became involved with the International Committee of the Red Cross. Upon her return to the United States in 1870, Barton worked to establish a U.S. branch of this organization. She appealed to President James Garfield by stating that an organization like the Red Cross would assist not only with wartime crises, but also with humanitarian aid and disaster relief. The American Red Cross was founded May 21, 1881 with Barton as its president.
On display: Portrait of Clara Barton (Library of Congress). Above: invitation to join Barton at Red Cross Headquarters for an event (NSDAR Archives), and a personal note from Barton to DAR Founder Mary Lockwood (NSDAR Archives).
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Susan B. Anthony
(1820 – 1906)
Irondequoit Chapter, New York
A staunch supporter of women’s suffrage, Susan B. Anthony worked tirelessly throughout her life to secure women the right to vote. Along with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Anthony formed the National Women’s Suffrage Association in 1869 and devoted her time and energy to traveling around the country speaking on behalf of the suffrage cause. In 1890 she organized a merger with the more conservative American Woman Suffrage Association to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Anthony was primarily concerned with women earning the right to vote. Although she did not live to see the passage of the 19th Amendment on August 26, 1920, which granted women the right to vote, Anthony’s efforts greatly contributed to the cause.
On display: Photograph of Susan B. Anthony (Library of Congress). Above: A note typed and signed by Susan B. Anthony (NSDAR Archives). In the note, Anthony asks that The History of Woman Suffrage is made available to the public at libraries and schools
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Julia Dent Grant
(1822 – 1902)
Chapter Affiliation Unknown, District of Columbia
Julia Dent Grant proved to be an able partner for her Civil War hero husband, Ulysses S. Grant. During the Civil War, she actively tended to wounded soldiers, repaired uniforms, and joined her husband on the scene of action whenever possible. Having his wife by his side during wartime kept Ulysses focused and confident. When he later became President, Mrs. Grant gained fame in her role as the First Lady by providing the public with an image of a woman who was both politically savvy and socially graceful. A beloved public figure, Mrs. Grant was buried next to her husband in Grant’s tomb.
On display: Portrait of Julia Dent Grant (NSDAR Archives).
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The DAR was founded in Washington, DC in 1890 at the beginning of what historians refer to as the Progressive Era. Women not only took advantage of new educational and career opportunities available to them but also continued very active in a variety of social reform activities including workers’ rights and women’s suffrage.
Alice Stokes Paul (1885-1977)
Mary Washington Chapter, Washington, DC
Women’s rights activist Alice Paul was born in New Jersey. She held a Bachelor of Arts degree from Swarthmore College, a Master of Arts in sociology and a Ph.D. in political science and economics. She joined the National American Woman Suffrage Association in 1912 and was appointed Chairman of the organization’s Congressional Committee in Washington. Her activities initially consisted of strategic planning and fund raising. By 1916 Paul and her colleagues began to implement the more assertive tactics used by suffragists in England. Their efforts included parades, hunger strikes, and suffrage watch fires. In 1917 Paul participated in what may have been the first political protest to picket in front of the White House. She was arrested along with other participants and sent to prison at what was then the Occoquan Workhouse in Lorton, Virginia. Paul proceeded to organize a hunger strike and endured force-feedings, beatings, and other torture including sleep deprivation. A physician at Occoquan said of her: “[She has] a spirit like Joan of Arc, and it is useless to try to change it. She will die but she will never give up.” It was Alice Paul who nicknamed the Nineteenth Amendment “The Anthony Amendment” after women’s rights pioneer Susan B. Anthony.
Hilary Swank portrayed Paul in the 2004 HBO film Iron Jawed Angels. In addition to Susan B. Anthony and Alice Paul, suffragists Mary Garrett Hay, Julia Ward Howe, Belva Lockwood, Harriet Taylor Upton, Sue Shelton White and Frances Willard were DAR members.
On display: Photograph of Paul sewing a suffrage banner, between 1912 and 1920 (Library of Congress).
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Anita Newcomb McGee (1864-1940)
Horseshoe Robertson Chapter, Mississippi
Anita Newcomb McGee earned her medical degree in 1892 from what is now George Washington University and spent the next few years in private practice in Washington, DC. When she learned that the federal government would add female nurses to their all-male nursing corps to serve during the Spanish-American War in 1898, she urged the United States surgeon general to employ only fully-qualified nurses. She then persuaded the DAR to establish a committee for the purpose of screening applicants for army nursing. The DAR Hospital Corps was born and its services accepted by the federal government. In 1901 she played a leading role in the founding of the Army Nurse Corps. In addition Dr. McGee served the NSDAR at various times as Vice-President General, Historian General, Librarian General, and Surgeon General.
Both Dr. McGee’s parents and her husband, geologist and anthropologist William John McGee, encouraged her professional aspirations. The McGees had three children between 1889 and 1902 and, at a time of increasing professional progress by women, Dr. McGee was proud to prove that a married woman successfully could manage both domestic and public interests.
On display: Cyanotype of McGee, no date (NSDAR Archives).
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Caroline Scott Harrison (1832-1892)
Mary Washington Chapter, Washington, DC
Caroline Scott Harrison graduated from the Oxford Female Institute in Ohio in 1853 with a degree in music. Additionally her interests included painting and gardening. She was a cheerful, sociable person and enjoyed entertaining at home. She married Benjamin Harrison in 1853 and saw him elected to the White House in 1888. Some historians believe that Caroline Harrison is one of our most underrated first ladies as she not only established the famous White House china collection but also supported progressive causes fueled by her belief in the equality of women to men. In 1890 she refused to assist the new Johns Hopkins Medical School with their fundraising efforts until they agreed to admit women. The school acquiesced. Also in 1890 she became the DAR’s first President General and served in that capacity until her death.
On display: Portrait of Harrison (NSDAR Archives). Above: Note card depicting image painted by Harrison of orchids, no date (NSDAR Archives).
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Lucy Maynard Salmon (1853-1927)
Mahwenawasigh Chapter, New York
Lucy Maynard Salmon was already an accomplished historian when Vassar College hired her in 1887 to establish its history department. Salmon rejected the traditional methods of teaching history which emphasized memorizing facts and preferred her students to read primary sources and question scholarly authorities before coming to their own educated conclusions. Salmon also appreciated the research value of less-than-traditional primary sources. She favored studying laundry lists to understand what they reveal about ordinary life and once wrote an essay using her backyard as a historical record. Salmon’s influence eventually extended well beyond Vassar. She was admitted to the American Historical Association in 1885 and in 1915 became the first woman elected to their Executive Council. An active member of her community, she supported a variety of public education efforts and local suffrage organizations. She was a prolific writer and produced more than a dozen monographs and over 100 essays and lectures. In 1926 Vassar alumnae established the Lucy Maynard Salmon Fund which continues to support Vassar faculty research.
On display: Portrait of Salmon, no date (Vassar College) and image of Salmon with her class, no date (Vassar College).
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This era began with the pervasive image of the feminine yet independent “flapper,” continued with an increase in the number of clerical jobs available to women, and culminated in World War II which saw women filling skilled industrial jobs that had previously been unavailable to them.
Jane Addams (1860-1935)
Topeka Chapter, Kansas
Jane Addams dedicated her life to social work. In 1889, she co-founded Hull-House in Chicago, one of the first settlement houses in the United States. Hull-House offered a wide variety of activities and services to local immigrants and the urban poor. In the years leading up to World War I, Addams became a committed pacifist and helped to found the Woman’s Peace Party. As a result of her work, Addams received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931. She was the first American woman to be awarded this honor.
On display: A picture of Addams and the other Woman’s Peace Party delegates to the first International Congress of Women, 1915 (Library of Congress).
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Pauline Morton Sabin Davis (1887-1955)
Southampton Colony Chapter, New York
Pauline Morton Sabin was a prominent leader in the movement to repeal Prohibition. She was appalled by the crime and lawlessness that had flourished since 1919, when the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution banned alcohol. Chiefly, she was concerned about the corruption of children and family life. In 1929, Sabin founded the Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform (WONPR) in order to challenge the long-held assumption that all American women in the United States supported Prohibition. An excellent political fundraiser and a skilled organizer, Sabin promoted her message relentlessly and within a few years the WONPR had 1.5 million members, making it the largest anti-Prohibition organization in the country. The women of the WONPR succeeded in shifting public opinion and Prohibition was repealed upon ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment in late 1933.
On display: Time magazine, July 18, 1932 (NSDAR Archives)
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Ginger Rogers (1911-1995)
Hollywood Chapter, California
Ginger Rogers was a legendary actress, singer, and dancer who made over 70 movies during her career. She is perhaps best remembered for her on-screen partnership with Fred Astaire in musicals that showcased her graceful, energetic, and sophisticated dancing style. Together they starred in such classic films as Night and Day, The Gay Divorcee, and Shall We Dance. Later Rogers took up more serious dramatic roles, and won an Oscar for Kitty Foyle in 1940. During World War II, her comedic roles in movies such as Roxie Hart gave the country something to smile about, and she became the highest paid female performer in Hollywood. Rogers won many awards and honors during her career, and was a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors for lifetime achievement in 1992.
On display: Poster of Roger and Astaire (Wikipedia).
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Jeannette Ridlon Piccard (1895 - 1981)
Nathan Hale Chapter, Minnesota
Dr. Jeannette Piccard was the first licensed female balloonist in the world and the first woman to ascend into the stratosphere. On October 23, 1934, she piloted the Century of Progress balloon to a height of 57,579 feet and set a women’s altitude record that lasted for three decades. Accompanying her on the flight was her husband, Jean Piccard; throughout their careers, the couple collaborated on many research projects. Jeannette Piccard went on to serve as a consultant to NASA’s manned spacecraft division from 1964 to 1970, and was posthumously inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame in 1998. Always a leader, she is also remembered as one of the first women to be ordained as an Episcopalian priest.
On display: Photograph of Piccard at the landing of the Century of Progress balloon near Cadiz, Ohio, October 23, 1934 (NASA via Wikipedia.org).
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The 1950s ushered in a new era of domesticity in which women faced great pressure to relinquish their jobs and resume traditional roles as wives and mothers. Consequently, women worked throughout this period to publicize a variety of civil rights issues including the prevalence of violence against women and the lack of adequate maternity leave and day care.
Lillian Gish (1893-1993)
Massillon Chapter, Ohio
Lillian Gish is an actress whose career spanned 75 years encompassing silent films, stage plays, and modern movies. Highlights from her career include silent films such as Birth of a Nation (1915) and The Scarlet Letter (1925), the role of the Ophelia in director Guthrie McClintic's 1936 stage production of Hamlet, and movies roles such as Duel in the Sun (1946), Night of Hunter (1955), and A Wedding (1978). In 1971 Gish received a Special Academy Award “For superlative artistry and distinguished contribution to the progress of the motion picture.” Additionally she received an American Film Institute Lifetime Achievement Award in 1984. Her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame can be found at 1720 Vine Street.
On display: Portrait of Lillian Gish, 1921 (Library of Congress).Close Lillian Gish
Margaret Chase Smith (1897-1995)
Eunice Farnsworth Chapter, Maine
Margaret Chase Smith was the first woman to serve in both the House of Representative and the Senate. In 1940 she was elected to the U.S. House of Representative and in 1948 she was elected to the U.S. Senate. Smith served eight terms in the Senate and is known for her June 1, 1950 speech “Declaration of Conscience” given in reaction to what she saw as the excesses of Senator Joe McCarthy’s anti-communist crusade. Smith received many honors and awards during her lifetime of service, one of which was the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President H. W. Bush in 1989.
On display: Portrait of Margaret Chase Smith (NSDAR Archives).
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Grace Murray Hopper (1906-1992)
Mary Murray Chapter, New York
Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper joined the navy during World War II after teaching mathematics at Vassar College for twelve years. In 1946 Admiral Hopper received the Naval Ordnance Development Award for her work on the mark series, the world’s first large scale automatically sequenced digital computers. After the war she left service in the Naval Reserves and in 1949 Hopper joined the Eckert-Mauchley Computer Corporation as a Senior Mathematician. Her pioneering efforts while employed by this company resulted in the birth of Cobol Computer Language. Rear Admiral Hopper was bestowed with many awards and honors during her lifetime, among them the National Medal of Technology, the United States’ highest honor in the filed of engineering and technology.
On display: Photograph of Rear Admiral Hopper (U.S. Navy).Close Grace Murray Hopper
Marjorie Merriweather Post (1887- 1973)
Mary Baker Allen Chapter, Vermont
Marjorie Merriweather Post was a notable businesswoman, philanthropist, art collector, and socialite. Her father, C. W. Post, taught her every aspect of running his growing Postum Cereal Company. After his death, the 27 year old heiress took over the company and her vision and management skills aided in the creation of the General Foods Corporation. Throughout her life she was linked with many charitable organizations, such as the Salvation Army and the National Symphonic Orchestra. She acquired an extensive collection of French and Russian decorative arts. Her collection of Russian Imperial art is considered to be one of the finest outside of Russia. She left her Hillwood Estate in Washington, DC to the public and this estate now serves as a museum.
On display: Reprint of Portrait of Marjorie Merriweather Post, 1937 and Hillwood Museum and Garden Brochure (NSDAR Archives).Close Marjorie Merriweather Post
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Despite the progress and achievements toward women’s rights in previous decades there continued to be historic “firsts” for women throughout the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. The pioneers of the era include Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, astronaut Sally Ride, and presidential candidate Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Margaret Rhea Seddon (b. 1947)
Colonel Hardy Murfree Chapter, Tennessee
Margaret Rhea Seddon began her career as a medical doctor. She worked as a surgeon at hospitals in Mississippi and Tennessee before she became one of the first women accepted as an astronaut candidate in 1978. Dr. Seddon took part in three missions – aboard the Discovery in 1985, then aboard the Columbiain 1991 and 1993, logging a total of 722 hours in space. She performed a variety of duties including medical and life science experiments. After retiring from NASA in 1997, Dr. Seddon became Assistant Chief Medical Officer at the Vanderbilt Medical Group in Nashville, Tennessee.
On display: Photograph of Margaret Rhea Seddon with fellow astronauts aboard Discovery, and a DAR insignia pin and patch she carried with her into space, 1985 (NSDAR Archives).
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Janet Reno (b. 1938)
Coral Gables Chapter, Florida
Janet Reno served as U.S. Attorney General from 1993 to 2001 and was the first woman to be selected for this position. As State Attorney for Florida, she worked to reform the juvenile justice system and helped establish the Miami Drug Court, which became the model for drug courts throughout the country. Janet Reno currently tours the U.S. and gives lectures on topics concerning the criminal justice system.
On display: Photograph of Janet Reno attending the Department of Justice Awards Ceremony at Constitution Hall, where she was was also presented with her membership certificate and DAR insignia, 1998 (NSDAR Archives).
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Judsen Culbreth (b. 1961)
Ecor Rouge Chapter, Alabama
Judsen Culbreth has had an extensive career in magazine and TV journalism. After writing and editing for magazines such as Seventeen, Ladies Home Journal, and Mademoiselle, she served as Editor-in-Chief of Working Mother and as Executive Director of Redbook. Culbreth also served as Vice President of Scholastic and appeared monthly for four years on NBC’s Today as the first work/family contributing editor. She has appeared on hundreds of news and radio programs including CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, ABC’s Prime Time Live, and Dateline. She is a spokesperson for the Family and Medical Leave Act and a founder of “Take Our Daughters to Work Day”. Culbreth currently serves on the boards of two environmental organizations, Mobile BayKeeper and Smart Coast. She is the author of The Boomer’s Guide to Online Dating.
On display: Portrait of Judsen Culbreth (Courtesy of Judsen Culbreth).
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Laura Welch Bush (b. 1946)
Colonel Theunis Day Chapter, Texas
During her time as First Lady of the United States, Laura Welch Bush has focused on education, literacy, women’s health issues and patriotism. Mrs. Bush joined the Library of Congress to create the National Book Festival which has been held on the National Mall every year since 2001. She has served as Honorary Ambassador for the United Nations Literacy Decade and advocates for international education, especially for women and girls. Her mother, a breast cancer survivor, has influenced her support in breast cancer research, and she has also partnered with the National Lung, Heart, and Blood Institute to educate women on heart health. Laura Bush serves as the Honorary Chairperson of the National Anthem Project.
On display: Photograph of Laura Bush with Secretary of Education Rod Paige in the DAR Library while taping a Channel One interview about education conducted by journalists and students, Spring 2001 (NSDAR Archives).
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