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Inside this Issue

January/February 2018

Glimpse into the lives and passions of the diverse group of women who comprise today’s DAR membership.

National Treasures
Take a step inside the DAR Museum for a closer look at its fascinating collection.

More Articles
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.


Today's Daughters
Out of This World

Volume 152, Number 1
By Lena Anthony
Photograph courtesy of Aileen Yingst

For as long as she can remember, Aileen Yingst wanted to be a space scientist. Her desire started around the age of 3, with a sticker book about stars.

“I remember the book showed objects in the solar system in orbit, which looked like it was some sort of physical thing,” said Dr. Yingst, a member of Brunswick-Topsham DAR Chapter, Brunswick, Maine. “I wondered if people lived near these orbits and if they did, if they could touch them.”

She has since moved on to other questions about the universe—such as, “What can Mars tell us about life on Earth?”

After majoring in physics and astronomy in college, Dr. Yingst went on to earn master’s and doctorate degrees in geological sciences from Brown University. Today she’s a geologist and senior scientist at the nonprofit Planetary Science Institute, a research institute based in Tucson, Ariz., that works with NASA to provide science support for its space exploration missions. Dr. Yingst is a scientist on the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s mission for the space probe Dawn, which orbited the asteroid Vesta for a 14-month period in 2011 and 2012, and is currently orbiting the dwarf planet Ceres.

Today, she works with NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory to help develop missions for the Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars in August 2012.

And, thanks to modern technology, she does much of this work from her home office in Maine.

A typical day actually starts the night before, when data from the previous day on Mars gets downloaded, which Dr. Yingst reviews for cues that the next day’s mission can proceed as planned. The following morning, with those plans being executed some 34 million miles away, she and a team of scientists and engineers start planning future missions.

“It’s a very complex task to decide what the rover is going to do each day and how it’s going to do it,” she said.

When she’s not on rover shift, she’s doing research on the rover’s data. “It’s really not that different from what other geologists do,” she said. “My field work just happens to be on another planet.”

She sometimes travels to remote locations, such as a Utah desert, to test experiments before executing them on Mars or as part of a rover exploratory mission on any planet.

“There are a lot of things to test before you even consider doing science in space,” she said. “We need to know what instruments to use, what not to use and the best questions to ask. We have to make sure every move the rover makes is absolutely necessary; otherwise we’re wasting resources.”

Some work days end at 5 p.m.; other days she doesn’t leave her office until 1 a.m.

“We are beholden to when Mars can talk to us, because of where it is in its orbit,” she said.

Dr. Yingst said she pinches herself almost daily thinking about what these NASA missions have accomplished.

“We are pushing the envelope of what humans can achieve, we are gaining a better understanding of our own planet by studying other planets, and we are inspiring kids with the work that we do,” she said. “Every day when I start a new shift, I remind my team that we have the best jobs in the world—we work on Mars. What more could you ask for?”

In her free time, Dr. Yingst enjoys being outside with her family, which includes husband, Ross, and teenage children, Joshua and Rebecca. She also enjoys singing, water-skiing, cross-stitching and exploring her family history.

“As a scientist, I appreciate the fact that my work is based on what has come before me,” she said. “And if I can’t learn from that work, then I’m not a very good scientist. I feel the same way about my ancestors, whose lessons on loyalty and freedom and taking care of others are still shaping our present and future.”

For more Today’s Daughters, please click here.

To nominate a Daughter for a future issue, e-mail a description to americanspirit@dar.org.


National Treasures
Taking Flight

Volume 152, Number 1, January/February 2018, Page 6
Photography by Patrick Sheary & Leo Sylvester

Dating to about 1940, this dynamic quilt of birds in flight was owned by Blanche Ransom Coleman Parker, a skilled seamstress, educator and community leader in Tennessee and Missouri. It is presently the only quilt made by an African-American in the DAR Museum collection. 

In 1938, Parker became a Jeanes Supervisor in her native Carroll County, Tenn. Jeanes Supervisors were African-American teachers chosen by school superintendents in the rural South to provide leadership and assistance to local teachers and communities. This assistance sometimes involved more than just help with curriculum; the local schools often needed physical maintenance and help with fundraising for books and other classroom materials. These supervisors were named after Anna T. Jeanes, a Philadelphia Quaker philanthropist who worked to improve school conditions for rural African-Americans.

After Parker’s death in 1981, this quilt was found among her possessions. Its bold design showcases an appealing improvisational quality, with deliberately irregular blocks and borders. Other quilts from the region also feature similar pieced birds with distinctive, large triangular feet. Whether Parker made the quilt is unclear: Since the quality of its stitching doesn’t seem consistent with her known sewing skills, it has been suggested that the quilt may have been acquired from members of the community in which she served. 

For more National Treasures, please visit the DAR Museum's Featured Objects.


More Articles
FEATURES

Americans’ Passion for Collecting the Past by Rex Hammock
Collecting artifacts from the Colonial era has been popular since the period itself. But a recent resurgence in the interest in American memorabilia has been influenced by online marketplaces and the popularity of reality TV shows.

The Shot Heard ’Round the Revolutions by Annelise Jolley
Our Revolution inspired revolutions in France, the Caribbean, and in Latin and South America between the late 18th and mid-19th centuries.

The Revolution’s Western Campaign by Stephen L. Kling Jr., Kristine L. Sjostrom and Margaret A. Carr
An important but largely unknown campaign of the American Revolution took place in the west, when the Americans and the Spanish united to foil the British’s grand plan to conquer the entire Mississippi River Valley.

Salt Rising Bread: A Taste of Appalachia by Courtney Peter
The technique for making salt rising bread is believed to date to the late 18th century, when women in Appalachia had to provide bread for their families without the benefit of yeast.

Abandoned Hopes by Bill Hudgins
Although Britain’s Lost Colony on Roanoke Island is likely the most famous failed colony in what is now the United States, it was by no means the only one in America and Canada.

DEPARTMENTS

Spirited Adventures: Atlanta, Ga. by Megan Hamby
Originally started in 1837 as a small railway town, today Atlanta, Ga., is even more of a transportation hub, bustling with business headquarters; music, art and sports venues; and centers for history.

Historic Homes: Hampton Mansion by Lena Anthony
A National Historic Site in Towson, Md., preserves a remnant of a vast 18th-century estate, including a Georgian manor house, owned by the Ridgely family for seven generations, from 1745 to 1948.

Our Patriots: Robert Carter III by Nancy Mann Jackson
After a religious conversion, this American plantation owner and member of Virginia’s Council of State for two decades before the Revolutionary War emancipated close to 500 of his enslaved African-Americans.

Plus the President General’s Message and Whatnot

To purchase an issue of American Spirit, contact magazinesubscriptions@dar.org

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To Come in March/April 2018:

The Flag Act of 1818

Women Journalists of the Revolutionary War Period

Susanna Rowson, Novelist