Education. Preservation. Service.
The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, headquartered in Philadelphia, is an organization of women that actively promotes an appreciation of America's national heritage through historic preservation, patriotic service, and educational projects. Since 1899, the NSCDA/PA has administered Stenton, one of America's early and enduring preservation stories. Today, Stenton is where many of the Society's exciting educational programs take place. NSCDA/PA also supports Woodville, outside of Pittsburgh, and provides support for projects relating to patriotic service, as well as educational initiatives, including National History Day Philadelphia.
The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (NSCDA/PA) was founded on April 8, 1891 by a group of Philadelphia women who, as descendants of colonial ancestors, wished to form a women’s organization dedicated to honoring the colonial history of the United States. Following on the heels of the United States Centennial in 1876, they built upon renewed interest in America's past, working to “inspire ….a genuine love of country” through preservation of historic collections and buildings, as well as education, and to promote interest in the stories of our nation’s founding and development.
From the start, the founders conceived this Society as part of a National Society, a loose confederation of state societies, each with a constitution and “vested with power to act,” versus a centralized body. Within three short years, the Pennsylvania Society’s vision had gained tremendous support, and the NSCDA had grown to 14 state societies representing the 13 original states and the District of Columbia.
The Pennsylvania Society founders were a group of women who set out to make a difference. Notes historian Sandra M. Lloyd, "These were women who did things, driven by a desire to preserve the past, while engaging the present, yet keeping a clear eye focused on the future" (1999). The organization became involved in the preservation of Stenton in 1899, believing, in the words of Mary Chew, an elder stateswoman of the Society at the time, that the "fine old mansion [would] prove to be an important acquisition, not only to The Colonial Dames, but to the city of Philadelphia." Despite the great challenges, financial and otherwise, the Dames signed an agreement with the Logan family on December 9, 1899, and the museum's Opening Day was held on May 23, 1900.
Over the last century of custodianship at Stenton, the Dames have developed into leaders in the field of historic preservation, restoration and the interpretation of historic sites. In November 2000, the national organization (NSCDA) received the prestigious Trustee Emeritus Award for Excellence in the Stewardship of historic sites from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Today's NSCDA, headquartered in Washington, D.C., is an unincorporated association of 45 Corporate Societies and a membership of some 15,000 women. It supports more than 80 museum properties along with numerous national and local historical and patriotic service projects.