By Sue Buck, LMCC, OH
The Order began on January 13th, 1886 in the New York City home of Margaret Bottome, a Methodist minister’s wife. Margaret was well-known for her drawing room talks, Bible studies and prayer meetings. Dr. Edward Everett Hale, originator of the Lend-A-Hand movement, had planted the idea for a “sisterhood of service” before Mrs. Bottome invited several of her friends to an organizational meeting.
At the January meeting were Mrs. Margaret Bottome, Mrs. Mary Lowe Dickinson, Miss Georgia Libby, Mrs. Theo. Irving, Mrs. Mary F. Payson, Mrs. C. DePeyster Field, Mrs. J. F. Ruggles, Miss Susan B. Schenck and Miss Helen Hammersley. Along with Isabella Charles Davis, these women made up the original Ten. Their church affiliations were Episcopal, Methodist and Presbyterian.
Mrs. Bottome was chosen President and served in that capacity until her death in 1906. Mary Lowe Dickinson was the General Secretary of the Order from the beginning until her death in 1914. She served as Editor of the Order’s magazine, The Silver Cross, from its beginning in 1888 until her death. The Hymn of the Order, “Lead Now As Forth We Go,” sung to the tune of “Nearer My God to Thee” was written by Mrs. Dickinson in 1887.
Mrs. Irving, an educator in New York City, suggested the name, The King’s Daughters. For the badge, a little silver Maltese cross was chosen. In the early days, those who could not procure a cross wore a purple ribbon to proclaim their membership.
Look up and not down,
Look forward and not back,
Look out and not in, And lend a hand
represents faith, hope and service to others. The watchword chosen was In His Name and the text, Not to be ministered unto, but to minister.
The object of the Order is the “development of spiritual life and the stimulation of Christian activities.”
The Order unit was originally called a “Ten,” but was soon changed to “Circle” to accommodate the numbers of women wanting to join.
The founders were firm in declining to choose a work for each circle to do, rather allowing them to choose any work that involved doing good In His Name.
Hundreds of letters flooded the Headquarters office from women seeking information about membership and within a short time there were more than 50,000 members worldwide. In 1887, men and boys began seeking admission to the Order, and the name of the organization changed to The King’s Daughters and Sons in 1891.
The Order had a display in the Women’s Building of the 1893 World’s Fair where literature and badges were on display.
By 1896, there were Branch organizations in 26 states and circles in nearly every country in Europe, Japan, China, Syria and India. Canada had nearly 6,000 members.
Interstate Conferences, concerning the work of the Order, began in1897, but the first General Convention was held in Louisville, KY in 1912. Conventions continue to be held on even-numbered years. Central Council, composed of leaders of the organization, meets on odd-numbered years at Chautauqua, NY to conduct the business of the Order.
The Headquarters of the Order was based in New York City until 1972 when it moved to Chautauqua, New York where it continues to be today.
Photos: Courtesy Paul V. Gavin Library Digital History Collection, Illinois Institute of Technology – World’s Colombian Exposition 1893.
December 29: Margaret Bottome Day
Margaret McDonald Bottome, the Founder and first President of the International Order of The King’s Daughters and Sons, was born on December 29, 1825. A leader in the Methodist Church, she was the wife of a clergyman. Mrs. Bottome led many Bible talks and prayer meetings. These gatherings proved to be so popular that she was asked to conduct Bible studies in drawing rooms of many homes in New York City.
In 1886, Mrs. Bottome met with eight friends and discussed the founding of The King’s Daughters and Sons. From that time until 1906, Margaret Bottome was the President of the Order. For many years, Mrs. Bottome edited a King’s Daughters’ Page in The Ladies Home Journal where she wrote articles and gave advice when requested from hundreds of readers.
Mrs. Bottome was a woman of great faith. “She knew in whom she believed. To her, God was her Father, Jesus was her Savior, and the Holy Spirit was her guide. She firmly believed that God was responsible for the founding of the Order and that the Holy Spirit moved and inspired its members.”
After Margaret Bottome’s death, the members of the Order voted to honor her by declaring December 29th Junior Day.
(From Vol. I of the Order’s history – Sara F. Gugle)