Summer 2020 – President General Message
Many Dames have reached out to me during this time of social distancing due to COVID. While their stories and situations differ, there is a common theme of caring and concern for one another. Although it has been an unprecedented, challenging, and unsettling time, it is also a time of reflection, perspective, gratitude, communication, and creative engagement.
A CDA Mask Project was initiated and implemented by Sharon Hare, President of Chapter XIII-Chicago, and CDA First Vice President Beverley Sherrid. Untold hours of sewing work resulted in useful fabric masks for those in need. Thank you, ladies!
Staying connected electronically and virtually has been of paramount concern for The Colonial Dames of America over the last six months. Our 2020 Annual Meeting was accomplished telephonically with a record number of attendees, more participating chapters than ever…and even a candidate in Hawaii. There was robust representation from Europe, as well as a Dame calling in from Namibia! We are truly a connected, international Society of Colonial Dames.
Deborah McWilliams, Executive Director, and Assistant Director Nicole Scholet have kept CDA moving forward. They have been a lifeline to our membership, and much appreciated for navigating unforeseen circumstances to keep the organization open full time and the property secure. Thank you both for your loyalty, and all you have done for CDA and our members.
The Mount Vernon Hotel Museum has been closed (in-person) to the public since mid-March, but has continued with virtual tours, programs and engaging events, including the recent Hearst Fellows Symposium. The original research conducted by this year’s Fellows will help expand the Museum’s interpretation with a new learning module for summer interns as well as a themed house tour. Terri Daly, Museum Director, has done an excellent job facilitating these informative, mission-centric events.
I am delighted (and somewhat surprised) to report that CDA’s membership actually increased over the course of the pandemic. With more time spent at home, candidates have been able to complete their lineage papers, and access documents remotely that until recently could only be obtained physically. We are also experiencing robust resurgence in Supplemental Ancestor applications. The streamlined claims process, initiated by Registrar General Laura Ramsay, and Assistant Director (a.k.a. ‘Claims Guru’) Nicole Scholet, has rendered the experience more user-friendly than ever. An enthusiastic and steady stream of accolades continues to flow in from Registrars and Candidates, across the country, who embrace and appreciate these positive changes. Throughout the summer, CDA Genealogy Workshops continue to be offered featuring noted lineage scholar, Maria Dering. Thanks to Beverley Sherrid and our professional staff, these have been made available to Candidates and Prospectives in addition to current Dames.
While the bulk of in-person visits to chapters needed to be cancelled in the interest of safety, your CDA President General has enjoyed wonderfully successful virtual visits to chapters across the country, often at their Annual Meetings. This has worked well and kept us truly connected. Thankfully, my goal to visit all chapters, during my tenure, will become a reality using this method for the final chapters on the list.
Our annual Benefit for The Mount Vernon Hotel Museum will also be a virtual offering held on October 16th. The program features a piano performance by Chapter XXXI South Carolina First Vice President Adryn Sumner and a talk by Parent Chapter member Shelby Carr on her new book on Denver high society in the Gilded Age. Anna Rich and Lauren Rose are this year’s Chairmen. This Benefit will continue our celebration of 130 years as a Society. Although our 130th Anniversary charm has sold out, we still have special offerings to commemorate our milestone! Please check the Members Library on the CDA members-only portion of the website for the lovely array of CDA items.
In an abundance of caution, no in-person CDA or Museum events are firmly planned for the rest of the calendar year. We are hoping that the Society’s 2021 Annual Meeting (scheduled for May 3) and attendant weekend festivities will have us all together again in calmer and safer times.
Being part of The Colonial Dames of America is a joy and has been especially grounding to me during this unsettling era in our history. Both as chapters and as a larger Society, we have soldiered on in our critical — especially now — mission of historic preservation and education. CDA has risen to many challenges over 130 years, and we will continue moving forward with the strength of friendship, camaraderie, and a shared purpose to bind us. This is what Colonial Dames do best! Thank you for your membership, affiliation, participation, and leadership in both the Society and your individual chapters/communities.
CDA President General 2018-2021