The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America (NSCDA) was founded in 1891 by a group of Philadelphia women, dedicated to Colonial History historic preservation and patriotism. Maryland followed the State of Pennsylvania and became the second State Society. By 1894, ancestral State Societies had been established in all of the original thirteen colonies and the District of Columbia. Associate Societies have been established in thirty additional states, for a total of forty-four Corporate Societies bound together by the Covenant of 1908 which requires that each member coming into The Society have an ancestor from one of the original thirteen colonies.
The National Society is divided geographically into four Regions, each of which is subdivided into Districts. The Maryland State Society is a part of District 9 within Region IV.
The National Society with its elected officers and Board, operates under the Constitution and Acts in Council, and through the Biennial Council which meets every two years in October in Washington D.C. All State Presidents and National Committee Chairmen are members of the national Council.
The National Society takes pride in the historic houses and rooms which are furnished and maintained throughout the United States by the individual State Societies. Notable projects throughout the years include the reconstruction of the original church at Jamestown Virginia, the construction of the Spanish American War monument at Arlington Cemetery, the building of the granite canopy over Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts, operating rooms and provisions for hospital ships during World War I, work with the USO during World War II, help for patients during the Vietnamese Conflict, and the publication of many historical books.
More than 70 properties are affiliated with the Corporate Societies nationwide, of which 42 are wholly-owned and/or completely managed by the Corporate Societies. With respect to the other properties, Dames provide various types of support including financial, volunteer services, donations of furnishings and other objects, and management participation with state and municipal governments, local historical groups and private preservation entities.
In November 2000, the National Trust for Historic Preservation presented their prestigious Trustee Emeritus Award for Excellence in the Stewardship of Historic Sites to The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America "for acquiring, restoring, and interpreting a collection of historic properties that offer invaluable opportunities to experience the rich variety of America's heritage."
The activities of the NSCDA also include research, preservation and publications such as Ancestor Bibliography Register, Ancestor Profiles (short biographies), Colonial and Pioneer History Videos, Decorative Arts Sampler Survey, Historic Trips, Inventory of American Painting and Sculpture, Oral History, Plaques and Historic Markers and other publications.
In addition, the NSCDA conducts activities that promote responsible citizenship and the study of American history with particular emphasis on the fundamental documents, traditions and workings of our country and its government. Projects include:
The Maryland Society was founded in 1891 as a Corporate Society with elected officers and Board of Managers, each of whom has a committee responsibility. There are monthly Board meetings, September through June, an annual meeting in the Spring, and a semi-annual meeting in the Fall of each year for all the membership. Baltimore is the headquarters of the Maryland State Society. In addition to the Baltimore membership, there are Town and County Committees, Annapolis, Eastern Shore, Southern Maryland and Washington. Each of these groups has its own officers.
- Citizenship and welcoming projects for new citizens
- Educational programs in elementary schools including subjects such as the Bill of Rights, the Great Seal, early statehood history and flag programs
- Scholarship grants to Native Americans to study nursing
- Scholarship awards to students of American history
- Sponsorship of high school essay contests on American history subjects; winners are sent to Washington Workshops Congressional Seminars sponsored by the Washington Workshops Foundation
- Service to military, and projects for the benefit of American servicemen and women during wartime.
The headquarters of The National Society are located in Dumbarton House, 2715 Q Street, Washington DC. Construction of this mansion was begun in 1799 by Samuel Jackson, and later completed by James Nourse. In 1813 Nourse sold the house to Charles Carroll, a cousin of the Signer of the Declaration of Independence. In 1928 the Colonial Dames purchased the house and renamed it Dumbarton House. The house is managed by the Trustees of the National Society is open to the public as a museum, and has limited guest quarters for use by NSCDA members. Each State Society has a Lady of Dumbarton to serve on the Board.
Gunston Hall, home of George Mason, author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights which gave birth to the Bill of Rights, is located on the Potomac River at Mason Neck. The house was built by William Buckland who came to America in 1755 as an indentured joiner with George Mason’s brother, Thomsen. It took four years to build Gunston Hall. Gunston Hall is owned by the State of Virginia and administered by a Board of Regents made up of nominees from each State Society of the Colonial Dames who are appointed by the Governor of Virginia.
Sulgrave Manor, the ancestral home of George Washington, was built in 1539 in Northamptonshire, England. Two members of The National Council serve on the Sulgrave manor Board. Restoration, which began in 1923, continues to be an important project of The National Society of Colonial Dames.
The Maryland Seal of the Colonial Dames, designed in the 1890s, depicts the reverse side of the Great Seal of Maryland displaying the hereditary coat of arms of Lord Baltimore, Calvert and Crossland arms quartered; and above the shield, an earl’s coronet, a ducal coronet and a helmet, signifying absolute authority. On an ermine mantle are supporters depicting a 17th century farmer and a fisherman. The Italian motto declares on a ribbon scroll that “Deeds are masculine, words are feminine”. In the annulet are the Maryland Society’s title and the dates 1750-1891, the end of the Colonial Period and the incorporation of the Maryland Society.
Membership in the National Society of The Colonial Dames of America is by invitation, with a prerequisite of direct descent from an ancestor who served and resided in an American Colony prior to 1750 and who served his country in some official capacity before July 4, 1776. Satisfactory proof of this service and direct lineage are required.
The Motto of The Colonial Dames is “Virtutes Majorum Filiae Conservant”: “Daughters Conserve the Virtues of Their Elders” (from a letter by Mrs. Joseph Lamar, National President 1914-1927).
The Objective of this Society shall be to collect and preserve manuscripts, traditions, relics and mementos of bygone days, to preserve and restore buildings connected with the early history of our country, to educate our fellow citizens and ourselves in our country’s history and thus diffuse healthful and intelligent information concerning the past, to create a popular interest in our Colonial history, to stimulate a spirit of true patriotism and a genuine love of country, and to impress upon the young the sacred obligation of honoring the memory of those heroic ancestors whose ability, valor, sufferings and achievements are beyond all praise.
[ TOP OF PAGE ]