Saturday, February 11, 2023

United Daughters of America


Sewing for Union Soldiers, Harper's Weekly

In the first months of the Civil War C. M. Melville thanked the "Patriotic Daughters" of the United Daughters of America for their donations to a Washington hospital of "beautiful lint," shirts and bandages. The Franklin Council of the women's organization was located in Reading, Pennsylvania.

Directory of "Secret & Benefit Societies" in New York
lists three chapters of the United Daughters of America
the year before the war began.

National Heritage Museum Collection
Masonic lodge symbolism in the center of a quilt by
Jane Haight Webster  (1808-1877)

The United Daughters of America was one of the many lodges and secret societies that flourished in the America of the 1840s & 1850s. Sometimes classified as a Charitable Organization the United Daughters' principles were really not charitable in the wide sense of the word.

True, like other lodges and societies for men and women, they were a kind of insurance group dedicated to providing services such as funerals and cash to needy members. But membership was limited to native-born Americans. 

1852 Statement of Purpose describing the ladies' 
association's goals to stand as a "bulwark of their
country's freedom & greatness" in the face of the
"supineness of character among our people."

Anti-Irish propaganda

June, 1846
Copied from a New Jersey paper

1851, a New York chapter gave a dance benefitting the poor (but not all the poor.)

1852 Album from Baltimore

The United Daughters of America was essentially a Know Nothings lodge for women. Irish dancing partners might be jilted in favor of gentlemen whose grandparents were "born on the soil."


In other words, they were an association of women with anti-immigrant political purpose.

1857 Baltimore Sun
Newspaper accounts indicate they were active in Baltimore, New York,
New Jersey and Pennsylvania between 1845 or so, into the Civil War 1860s, continuing to meet throughout the century.

Jane E. Shumway of New York was a member when she died.

The United Daughters of America thrived in the anti-immigrant politics of the 1840-60 years. Did members stitch album quilts so popular then for solidarity and fundraising?

Houston Museum of Fine Arts Collection
Album quilt from Baltimore

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