Monday, April 2, 2012

Daughters of the Revolution?

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I had read several newspaper accounts of my first cousin 5x removed, William Lee (1826- 1906) and his wife, Sara Louise White (1849 - 1925), who was involved with the Daughter's of the Revolution.  Some newspapers even said she was regent of the Daughter's of the American Revolution.  I had never heard of the DR organization.  Apparently Sara White Lee was the first state regent of the Massachusetts Daughters of the Revolution of 1776.   Not the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR).  The DR was a separate organization that preceded the DAR.  According to's page on lineage societies

The DR was organized in 1890, and disbanded in 1983.  They required direct ancestral lineage from a patriot in the Revolutionary War long before the DAR, which originally "allowed ancestry based on collateral lines of descent".  Some state chapters of the DAR date from 1890, and the National DAR was established in 1896.

The DR records are kept by the Suffolk County Historical Society in Riverhead, New York.  The 12,266 membership records were digitized and are available on line    This is where I found that Sara Louise (White) Lee's patriot was Joel White, and her membership number was 311 in 1893 in Massachusetts.  For $10 they will send you  a copy of the membership papers.  So I decided to order Sara's papers to see how they compared to a DAR application.

Sara was very interested in genealogy.  She listed herself as a genealogist in the 1920 census!  She was one of the first thirty-six women members of the New England Historic Genealogical Society admitted in 1898.   Her obituary is listed in the 1925 NEHGS Register Volume 81, page 465.

        "Mrs. Sara (White) (Saunders)  (Lee) Mortimer, of Brookline, Mass., a life member since 1898, was born in New York City 5 February 1849, the daughter of James Wells and Catherine Reed (Garner) White, and died at Roxbury, Mass, 11 August 1925.
She traced her descent from Elder John White, who came to New England in the Lion in 1632, lived at Cambridge, Mass., Hartford, Conn, Hadlesy, Masss, and again at Hartford, and died in 1683, through Lieut. Daniel of Hadley and Hatfield, Mass., Capt. Daniel, 1671-1726, of Windsor, Conn., Joel, 1705-1789, of Bolton, Conn., a soldier of the Revolution and a deputy from Bolton in the General Court for twenty-six sessions, Lemuel, 1736-1780, Lemuel, who married Mary Wells, and James Wells, her father, who was born at Hartford, married Catherine Reed Garner, a native of New York City, and was engaged in the practice of law in New York.

She was married first to ------- Saunders; secondly 26 November 1888, as his second wife, being then of New York City, to William Lee, founder and head of the well-known Boston publishing house of Lee & Shepard, who was born in Boston 17 April 1826, the son of Laura Williams (Jones) Lee, resided in Brookline, and died in 1906, having retired from business in June 1898; and thirdly to George Mortimer, whom also she survived.

As Mrs. Sara White Lee of Brookline she was one of the thirty-six women who were elcted to membership in the New England Historic Genealogical Society on 2 February 1898, when the first election of women to membership took place; and her name was the twenty-first on the list of the tenty-nine women who accepted this election and qualified as members of the society.  At the annual meeting of the Society on 7 Feburary 1923, when the twenty-fifth anniversary of the first admission of women to membership was observed with appropriate excercises, twelve of these twenty-nine women were still on the rolls of membership and six of them were present at the meeting.  Mrs. Mortimer, however, was not one of the six, being prevented from attending by what proved to be her last illness.  But, in previous years, as long as her health permitted, she had kept up her interest in the activities of the Society and had been a frequent attendant at its meetings."

It was also fun to find her in the famous women's journal Godey's Magazine, Volume 135, No. 809, November 1897, page 552:  "Women Up to Date - The beautiful Mrs. William Lee, of Boston, is a candidate for the presiding officer of the Daughters of the Revolution.  No one would grace the position better than this charming woman, who is descended from a long line of revolutionary ancestors."   I guess she was quite a socialite!

My favorite story about cousin Sara Lee is found in this blog post, when she stood up for Queen Lili'uokalani during her visit to Boston, and spoke out in the newspapers against the annexation of Hawaii.  This was quite brave of her to speak out against the racism and the pro-annexation press.  Please click here to read more:

Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Daughters of the Revolution", Nutfield Genealogy, posted April 2, 2012, ( accessed [access date]).

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