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Behind the History
United States Oldest Women’s Hereditary Society
One of the remaining five Allied Orders of the G.A.R., in 1959 the Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic was Chartered by theCongress of the Unites States under Public Law 86-47, and remain dedicated to their mission today.
During the years 1861-1865 various societies of women formed to aid and support the “Boy’s in Blue” as they fought to save our Union. Upon the formation of the Grand Army of the Republic in 1866 many of these women continued their efforts to aid the Veterans and their dependant ones. Thus, in compliance with General Order No. 14 issued by Colonel C.H. Houghton Commander of the G.A.R. in the Department (state) of New Jersey, an executive committee of five ladies met at Trenton, New Jersey November 30, 1881 for the purpose of organizing a State Department of Aid Societies and to formulate such rules and regulations for work tending to benefit the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.). A second meeting was held December 15, 1881 at Trenton to adopt a charter and elect officers and begin work as the “Loyal Ladies’ League, Auxiliary to the G.A.R. Departmentof NewJersey.” At the first convention held in Camden, New Jersey on January 25, 1883, 16 Leagues were reported with a membership of 776.
In order to consolidate the various societies which were now forming throughout the United States to assist the G.A.R., Commander-in-Chief Paul Van Dervoort issued a call for a meeting to be held in Denver, Colorado on July 25, 1883 for the purpose of organizing one national auxiliary to the G.A.R. Many interested women as well as those who were already delegates from organized Departments and independent aid societies answered the call.
Although general agreement on the purposes and functions of this new organization existed, a strenuous debate ensued concerning eligibility for membership. The “Woman’s Relief Corps of Massachusetts contended that all loyal women should have the privilege of joining while the Loyal Ladies’League felt that the wives and blood kin of the Veterans should have the right to the eligibility. At the final vote a small majority decided that membership should be open to all loyal women thus making the“Woman’sRelief Corps” the recognized Auxiliary to the G.A.R.
The “Loyal Ladies’ League” continued their work in New Jersey and established a monthly paper to publish news of their activities and promote the objects and principals of the order. The following year found Leagues in Pennsylvania joining those in New Jersey and in 1885 Departments were established in California and Kansas. At the invitation of theIllinois Department Ladies of the G.A.R., a convention was convened in Chicago during November, 1886 for the purpose of forming a national organization. By the end of the first day all agreed to strike the words“Auxiliary to theG.A.R.” and the name and ritual of the Ladies of the G.A.R. were adopted while the badge, charter forms, and general plan of operations of the Loyal Ladies’League was continued.
The new National Order began with nothing in its treasury, but thanks to strong support of many G.A.R.comrades, the next meeting held in Columbus, Ohioin 1888 found the treasury with a full line of working material, all bills paid, a large increase in membership,and funds on hand to begin the next year’s work. By 1910 when the first official history of the Order was written, the Ladies of the G.A.R. had Departments organized in 29 states, membership of over 60,000, established widows and orphans homes in various states expending $30,000 annually for relief to Veterans, and included the Presidents of the United States among it’s members.
For more information contact our National Historian, Lynne Bury. Or you can write to her and send it to:
10095 Wadsworth Road, Marshallville, OH 44645 .... or by phone 330-855-4251.
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