American History



The American History Committee promotes the awareness and study of American history through activities that honor historically significant people, places, dates, and events.

The committee’s major efforts are the two annual essay contests it sponsors—the American History Essay Contest and the Christopher Columbus Essay Contest (details below). This committee also encourages chapters to promote awareness of American history in other ways, such as honoring notable women in American history; scheduling chapter programs on historical topics and persons; displaying American history posters in schools, libraries, and public buildings; and recognizing students for outstanding work in American history.

Essay Contests

Both the American History Essay Contest and the Christopher Columbus Essay Contest are open to children in public, private, or parochial schools, and those who are home-schooled. Contests are conducted without regard to entrants’ race, religion, sex, or national origin. The National Committee website contains resources, reading lists, supplies, and rules under each Essay Contest’s page. The rules for the essays must be followed exactly as prescribed—including the cover page, bibliography, word count, and type specifications (font, color, and size)—as noted on the Judge’s Form for each contest.

Judging at the chapter level is by three judges, at least one of whom is non-DAR. Judging at other levels is by three non-DAR judges.

For both contests, chapters need to receive their entries by November 15, 2018, and send their winners to their District Chairman for further judging by December 15, 2018. District winners must be received by the State Chairman by January 15, 2019.

The topics for next year’s essay contests should be announced in the early Spring which will give chapter chairmen plenty of time to contact their schools and let the teachers know so that they can include the essay contests in their planning for the fall semester.

American History Essay Contest
This contest is open to students in grades 5-8. This year’s essay topic is The Women's Suffrage Campaign. Focus: The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed by the United States Congress on June 4, 1919, and was ratified on August 18, 1920. This amendment granted all American women the right to vote and hold elective office. Many Americans at the time viewed this as a radical change to the U.S. Constitution. Imagine you are living in 1919 while the women's suffrage campaigns were having impact on Americans politically and socially. Discuss the pros and cons of this new amendment the U.S. Congress has passed.

Qualifying entries from fifth grade students run from 300 to 600 words; sixth, seventh, and eighth grade entries, from 600 to 1000 words.

Chapters may award a Bronze Medal and certificate to one winner in each grade (a total of four), and may give all entrants a Certificate of Participation. These items are available through the DAR Store.

Christopher Columbus Essay Contest
Co-sponsored by the National Italian American Foundation, this contest is open to students in grades 9-12.

This year’s essay title is: Comparing Ship Technology: The Ships Columbus Used Versus the Ships of Today. Focus: The three-ship fleet of Christopher Columbus included two ships known as carvels, Nina and Pinta, and one larger ship which served as Columbus' flag ship, Santa Maria. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of these late fifteenth-century ships compared to the modern ships of today and how they would have been prepared for his voyage.

The essay length is from 800 to 1,200 words.

Chapters select only one essay as the winner, but may give all participants in the contest a Christopher Columbus Essay Certificate, available at the DAR Store. For their one winner, chapters may request a winning certificate free through the Office of the Historian General (send requests to

Women in American History
Chapters, consider honoring a notable woman or women, alive or not, in your community or state—women who have made a contribution or difference in their communities through intellectual, educational, social, religious, cultural, scientific, or political endeavors. Honor these women by recognizing them at chapter meetings, inviting them to be your guest speakers, or honoring them with Women in American History certificates (available at the DAR Store). This is a good opportunity for seeking media coverage, as well.

Each chapter that honors a woman is asked to submit a 100-word (maximum) report about her, with a photo, if available. The report form is available on the Women in American History webpage ( Reports may be sent throughout the year to the American History State Chairman, but the final deadline for this reporting year is April 1, 2019. Electronic reports are preferred.

Friends of American History Pin
The Friends of American History fund provides for cash awards and any other prizes for the American History Essay Contest and the Christopher Columbus Essay Contest. A donation of $100 to the fund allows the donor to become a Friend of American History and to buy the pin from Hamilton Jewelers.

Please read through the relevant American History Committee information on the NSDAR website, the National Information Packet (NIP), the Virginia Information Packet (VIP), and the "Virginia View" for a complete guide to the committee’s work. Resources, forms and supplies are available on the National Committee webpages.

Contact state chair Cynthia Steinbach for more information.