For more than 120 years, the Daughters of the American Revolution has brought together the female descendants of Revolutionary War heroes to promote “historic preservation, education, and patriotism.” But now, faced with the prospect of biological men joining the esteemed society, DAR finds itself grappling with both resignations and indignation.
DAR organizers passed an amendment to the group’s bylaws in June that strikes out the line “provided an applicant for chapter membership is personally acceptable to the chapter,” The Daily Signal has learned. The amendment also added another line, specifically stating that the DAR cannot discriminate on the basis of gender, religion, or sexual orientation.
President General Pamela Edwards Rouse Wright and other DAR leaders defended the move as necessary to preserve the group’s 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. But DAR members from around the country told The Daily Signal that this is just an excuse their leaders are using to push woke ideology upon the historical society.
In an email to members of her Cheyenne Chapter in Wyoming, chapter regent Judy Lindsay explained that under the changes, chapters can no longer decide whether applicants are acceptable to them. While the chapters will still vote on applicants’ membership, they will have to be wary—votes on certain aspects of proposed members (such as their biological sex) could be considered discriminatory.
The bylaw change passed during the 2023 DAR Continental Congress, Lindsay said in the email, which was viewed by The Daily Signal.
In a Tuesday statement to The Daily Signal, the DAR claimed that its membership policies have not changed. (Spokeswoman Bren Landon would not respond to specific questions for this article.)
“Any woman is eligible for membership in the DAR who is 18 years or older who can prove lineal descent from a man or woman who supported the cause of Independence during the American Revolution,” the DAR statement said. “DAR’s long-standing membership policy remains unchanged since our founding in 1890.”
Members of the historical society who watched the 2023 Continental Congress told The Daily Signal that they aren’t sure everyone even knew what they were voting for. A video of the DAR’s congressional proceedings provides interesting insight into the matter: DAR leader Wright does not appear to have a firm grasp on what changes the controversial amendment will bring about.
Video from the event shows DAR delegate Jennifer Mease, from the Liberty Bell Chapter in Pennsylvania, questioning Wright as to whether chapters could still vote against admitting biological men who “identify” as female and have changed their birth certificates to match their preferred gender identity.
“If a person’s certified birth certificate states ‘female,’ they are eligible for membership, and your chapter cannot change that,” Wright responds, to scattered applause.
Mease persists, pointing out that currently, chapters can vote on whether members are a good fit: “So, currently we can, because we vote them in? So, this change would change that?”
“No,” responded Wright. “If a person’s birth certificate is ‘female,’ they are eligible for membership; therefore, they can be accepted as a member currently, and if this passes, it’s the same.”
At this point, the two women behind Wright appear to have confusion written across their faces. One of the women approaches Wright, and her whisper is caught by the mic: “With this change, they are not able to not vote someone in … . What she’s saying is that right now, they could vote to not accept someone because they are not a protected class, and this amendment, it protects them.”
Wright and her colleague then momentarily disappear from video view as they get their facts straight. When Wright returns, she emphasizes that, going forward, anyone with a certified birth certificate that says they are a female may be eligible for a chapter.
“Your chapter can still vote if you have voting in your bylaws,” she tells Mease. “You cannot discriminate.”
When Mease persists, Wright looks behind her at the other DAR staffers and asks, “Can I say this?” before turning back to the audience: “I’m gonna say it. Yes, if their birth certificate says they are a female, and you vote against them based on their protected class, it’s discrimination.”
Mease responded politely as she questioned Wright during the Continental Congress.
But shortly afterward, she resigned from the DAR.
In a July 3 email obtained by The Daily Signal, she told the DAR’s organizing secretary general, Nancy Wright, that she was “unable to reconcile” the DAR’s stance with her fundamental religious belief that “God created men and women as distinct and separate genders.”
I am writing to formally tender my resignation from my membership in the [National Society Daughters of the American Revolution] as well as my position of Regent of Liberty Bell Chapter, effective July 3, 2023.
It is with a heavy heart that I announce my decision to resign from this beloved organization. Recent changes in the bylaws of the organization; specifically, the adoption of the provision on Thursday, June 29, have compelled me to this decision. The change will require our Chapter to consider transgender males as females, which contradicts my deeply held religious beliefs. As a person of faith, I firmly believe that God created men and women as distinct and separate genders, and I am unable to reconcile this fundamental principle with the new bylaw.
I have been a dedicated member of NSDAR, and I have greatly valued the opportunities and experiences I have gained during my duration. It has been an honor to work alongside passionate Daughters and contribute to the goals and mission of the organization. However, due to this recent development, I feel it is in the best interest of both myself and NSDAR to part ways as our paths seem to be headed in different directions.
Please consider this email as my formal resignation letter.
Mease is not the only member of the DAR to resign. The Daily Signal spoke with a delegate from a Pennsylvania DAR chapter who asked to remain anonymous to protect her privacy. She said that two of the officers in her chapter and up to four board members had already resigned.
“I’ve heard from half a dozen other members who said they were resigning,” she said.
The new woke policies are likely due to “a collective kind of change in the administration, where you have more elite, white women who are feeling the pressures of what’s going on nationally,” the DAR member added.
In phone interviews with The Daily Signal, a slew of outraged DAR members pushed back against the idea that it is discrimination only to allow biological women in their society. Almost all members who spoke with The Daily Signal pointed to their religious beliefs and the science of biological sex as they disputed the notion that a man could become a woman.
Lindsay, the Cheyenne Chapter regent, pointed out that the DAR leaders have cited the need to protect the DAR’s 501(c)(3) status. But their society has always had strict rules about who can be admitted, she said, including age, gender, and relationship to American patriots.
“Excuse me,” Lindsay chuckled, “we do discriminate. If you don’t have a Patriot [in your family], you can’t be a daughter of the American Revolution. And you have to be 18, so there’s an age requirement.”
“We’re a women’s society,” she said. “We should be fighting for women. This goes against everything our patriots fought for. They fought against these taxes being unfairly put on us. … We love our country. We want patriotism. We don’t back down from fights.”
Dorothy Middleton—an 85-year-old DAR member, also with the Cheyenne chapter—pointed out that the members of the DAR “have to do a lot of proving that our ancestors had something to do with the Revolutionary War or something to promote the cause.”
“The fact that the DAR is worried that they’ll lose their tax-exempt status, I’d be willing to take that one to the Supreme Court,” she added. “The fact that you don’t allow transgender people in should have no effect whatever. … I just think they are using this as a cudgel to beat us into submission.”
Biological men who wish to join an organization like the DAR can join the Sons of the American Revolution, as Kerry Zimmerman pointed out to The Daily Signal. Back in the 1800s, Zimmerman said, women asked to join the Sons of the American Revolution—and were told “no.”
“It became apparent that if women were to accomplish any distinctive patriotic work, it must be within their own circle, and under their own leadership,” the DAR quotes Letitia Green Stevenson writing in her 1913 account of the society’s founding. “The ardor and zeal of a few undaunted women never flagged, and their determination to organize a distinct woman’s society became a fixed purpose.”
The Sons of the American Revolution’s exclusion prompted these American women to start the DAR.
“That’s a big deal—the fact that they wouldn’t let us play with them, so we made our own organization,” said Zimmerman, who is part of the Mount Desert Isle, Maine, chapter.
Zimmerman also thinks that the nonprofit status is an excuse for woke leaders at the DAR to open up the society to biological men.
“I’m sad. I enjoy this group, I like doing all the service work and the friends that I have made,” she said. “I don’t know what the solution is. I really don’t. And I don’t want to quit, but I probably will have to.”
Several of the women told The Daily Signal they found it ridiculous that the DAR is engaged in the matter since the organization is typically careful about staying away from such politically divisive issues.
“In DAR, we’re nonpolitical, nonpolitical, nonpolitical,” Zimmerman said. “And I get that, and I like it, and I can be friends with liberal women, because we aren’t talking about that stuff.”
“DAR is suppose to be nonpolitical, yet it’s pushing a radical liberal agenda,” said Lindsay, who, like Mease, spoke up at the Continental Congress and pushed back against the changes to the DAR bylaws.
Afterward, Lindsay said, she sent a letter to the DAR president requesting that the DAR get a legal opinion on how to interpret the law on which they are basing the bylaw changes. She thinks that incorrect information was sent out before the Continental Congress.
“I don’t believe we have to let males into our Society,” she told chapter members in an email describing her letter to Wright. “I pointed out the two Colorado cases that went to the Supreme Court, where both businesses in question do not have to provide wedding cakes or design webpages for homosexuals in spite of Colorado State Law.”
“Our First Amendment right protects our right to association,” she concluded. “We have a right to preserve our heritage and fight for women to be able to have their society without males being members. I pointed out that this bylaw pushes a radical, liberal agenda, which goes against DAR policy of not being political. You have a right to voice your opinion, no matter which side you stand on.”
In a phone interview with The Daily Signal, Lindsay said firmly: “Our motto should mean something. We have ‘God, family, and country’ for a reason. And God comes first.”
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