4.27.20 – President General Report

4.27.20 – President General Report

This report was given during the telephonic CDA Annual Meeting, held April 27, 2020.


Since our founding in 1890, The Colonial Dames of America has been affected by wars and national emergencies which have caused cessation of our activities. Meetings were compromised by the Spanish American War in 1898, World War I, the 1918 influenza pandemic and World War II. This year we are being similarly challenged.


Due to COVID-19, Society meetings, activities, and gatherings have been cancelled across the nation, including our Annual Meeting events always held in New York. This telephonic meeting has enabled us to address critical business including the election of CDA’s 2020-21 slate in accordance with Society by-laws. I am grateful to you for your willingness to participate in this way.


The Mount Vernon Hotel Museum closed to the public on March 13 until further notice. Terri Daly, Museum Director, and her staff are offering exciting and educational virtual museum activities. CDA Executive Director, Deb McWilliams, and Assistant Director, Nicole Scholet, are working remotely to keep the business of the Society moving forward. In the meantime, Dames everywhere are proceeding with independent projects while practicing social distancing. Producing homemade protective masks, where there is currently great need, is an important project underway and reminds me that adversity always ultimately strengthens our Society.


There have been many exciting CDA initiatives this year. You have heard about claims innovations and growing membership from Registrar General Laura Ramsay. Additionally I am pleased to report the CDA brand has been expanded with the addition of beautiful new insignia ribbon, charms, and other offerings. I would encourage everyone who has not done so, to refresh their insignia with our newly custom-produced historic cerulean blue ribbon. The Society’s website contains a treasure trove of information, including insignia protocol — which I encourage you to consult as our guidelines and regulations are distinct from those of other lineage organizations. These improvements would not have been possible without the leadership of Shari Whiting and her Communications and Branding Committee. Exciting changes, such as these, lead into the Society’s 130th Anniversary, which is May 23, 2020. We look ahead to a year of celebrations culminating in the 2021 Annual Meeting.


When I first took office, we launched an informative and fun CDA Facebook page that now boasts 1300+ followers. Since then we have set up an Instagram account while continuing to send frequent eblasts to the entire membership. And in-person I have had the honor of visiting nearly 30 chapters. It has been a pleasure to share the Society’s history alongside its modern aspirations. In an effort to increase awareness and highlight our mission, CDA and its chapters have collaborated with a wide array of other societies and lineage groups. There have been social events, lectures, educational projects, and special initiatives with these august organizations. A likely-virtual Regional Meeting this summer is planned to bring our Midwest members together. Chapter XIV-Chicago has offered to spearhead this gathering under the leadership of Chapter Liaison Chairman, Charlotte Christian.


A highlight of our year was the Rededication of the 1907 CDA Memorial Gates at Historic Jamestown Island. After 112 years of salt air, hurricanes, and the elements of time, professional restoration was sorely needed. Together with leadership and staff, we designed and executed a Society-wide campaign whereby funds were raised to return the gates to their original gilded glory. Chaired by Jocelyn Lance, President of Chapter XXIII-Virginia, the campaign was a resounding success, exceeding its original goal.

In conjunction with these newly unveiled glistening gates, nearly 125 Dames and friends gathered on historic Jamestown Island for the dedication, a special ceremony in the historic church, private tours, and an outdoor luncheon. A gala dinner was held that evening at Richmond’s historic Commonwealth Club. The following day featured a special tour of iconic Richmond historic sites, with a festive lunch at one of them. It was a heartwarming Dames trip to spark and renew friendships along with one of the Society’s most enduring projects. Stay tuned for fall 2021 and the possibility of another special travel opportunity!


I wish to thank all CDA volunteers, committee chairmen, officers and the Board of Managers, especially our outgoing board members. These are Evelyn Aucoin, who also chairs the Development Committee; Catherine Brawer, who also chairs the Museum Committee; Carol Lynch who chairs both the By-Laws and Organizational Structure Committees; and Charlotte Squarcy, chairman of the Garden & Grounds Committee. And, of course, we are truly blessed to have loyal and hard-working staff leadership in the form of Deb McWilliams and Nicole Scholet at the office and Terri Daly at the museum. Ladies, you have all helped fulfill our mission through your hard work and excellence. CDA’s membership is deeply appreciative.


I would like to also recognize the late Colonial Dame, Genevieve Lanyon, for the generous bequest she has made to CDA by way of the museum. Her legacy of love for the Society sets a great example. It is difficult to fully underscore what a difference such a gift can make to a Society like ours. Please consider CDA in your plans.


I truly humbled to serve as your President General. As we weather the current health pandemic, please keep in touch with each other and know that our treasured Society remains active and will persist in going from strength to strength. This is only possible because of you – the Society’s exceptional members and leaders.


On behalf of the Board of Managers, the office, and myself, I wish you and your loved ones fortitude, comfort, and good health, as we look forward to emerging from this unprecedented health crisis and reconnecting in person as Dames and as friends.


CDA President General 2018-2021