Gems from the Memorial Museum

Founders’ Day

The Order began on January 13th, 1886 in the New York City home of Margaret Bottome, a Methodist minister’s wife. Dr. Edward Everett Hale, originator of the Lend-A-Hand movement, planted Mrs. Bottome with the idea for a “sisterhood of service,” after which she 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 and formed the Circle of Service. Their aim was to develop their own spiritual life and to be a blessing to those less fortunate. At that time, they had no idea of the far-reaching effects that fateful meeting would have.

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. 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 her recollection of that January day, Margaret Bottome said, “In that room on the 13 th of January, the first meeting of the Order was held. I seem now to see one dear little woman, almost angelic, as it seemed at times, who had a beautiful home of her own, yet, who said she had not sat in so much sunshine for a long time. Ah! She was in the eternal sunshine that day for she was indeed a beautiful daughter of our King.

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.

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.

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.


Click here for “A Litany for Founders’ Day.”


Marjorie Hughes from New Brunswick, Canada, in her book,The Original Ten, described the Founders of the Order as follows:

Margaret McDonald Bottome was the founder and first President of the Order (1886-1906). A woman of great faith and a spiritual leader, she set the standard for all members to follow. Prior to her involvement in the Order, Mrs. Bottome was the leader of the acclaimed Drawing-Room Work of New York City for over twelve years. At these gatherings she spoke of Christ and the duty of women to follow in His footsteps by loving and helping others less fortunate. For many years, Mrs. Bottome was a contributor to The Ladies’ Home Journal. Margaret Bottome believed that God founded the Order and that only as the Holy Spirit moved and inspired its members was the Order worthwhile.

Isabella Charles Davis was one of the charter members ofthe Order and for many years was its corresponding secretary. In addition, she served the Order as business manager, treasurer, and one of the vice-presidents. From 1921-1922 Mrs. Davis wrote a series of articles, The Smallers, for The Silver Cross. These articles chronicled the early years of the Order. She traveled thousands of miles working for the Order. In 1912, Mrs. Davis presided over the first General Convention in Louisville, Kentucky.

Mary Lowe Dickinson, a student of educational and social welfare movements, worked as novelist, poet, essayist, and educator. A charter member of the Order, Mrs. Dickinson was the General Secretary of the Order from 1886-1914. She was the first editor of The Silver Cross, holding the office for twenty-six years. She was the author of the Prayer of the Order and the Hymn of the Order, Lead Now as Forth We Go. Mrs. Dickinson wrote the following statement about individual service: “You see it means a life work; for whatever other work we do, this work of personal helpfulness to one and then to another must be first, and must be the one work that never is allowed to stop.”

Mary Louise Irving was the principal of a large boarding school for girls in New York City. As the girls were leaving school, she gave them the name “The King’s Daughters.”  It was this name that Mrs. Irving suggested for the new Order. She remained in the Council for only four years, resigning in 1890.

Mrs. Frances Payson was the first recording secretary of the Order. Her first contribution to The Silver Cross was printed in the October, 1888 issue and was entitled, “Advice in God’s World for Each Daughter of The King.” It included an acrostic of Scripture verses, the first letters spelling, “A King’s Daughter.”

Miss Susan B. Schenck was a valued member of the Central Council. When the membership of the Order grew in such an astounding way that it often became necessary to divide the work among the first group, Miss Schenck was elected the chairman of the Committee on Home Missions. .

Mrs. Field and her sister, Miss Helen Hammersley, were consecrated followers of our Lord. Mrs. Field’s first printed. message to the members of the Order was published in the first issue of The Silver Cross. Mrs. Field and Miss Hammersley resigned from the Council in 1890.

There is no record of Mrs. Ruggles, except a statement by Mrs. Isabella Charles Davis explaining that the reason she said so little about her was that Mrs. Ruggles did not speak in public nor write for the first issue of The Silver Cross.

For a number of years, Miss Libby and her mother boarded in the same house with Mrs. Bottome in New York City. She became so deeply attached to Mrs. Bottome that she filled the place of a daughter to her in every way. Soon after the founding of the Order, Miss Libby became its treasurer.


Sue Buck, Order Historian