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'Autograph of a Nation': The Daughters of the American Revolution and the National Old Trails Road, 1910-1927

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In 1912, a group of women within the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) undertook to become architects of the first continuous transcontinental automobile route, to be called the 'National Old Trails Road' highway. Consistent with many of the private road improvement initiatives during the heyday of America's good roads movement, 'Daughters' in many states were involved in mapping the route and posing a variety of marking schemes that would etch upon the landscape the DAR's sponsorship of the route. In doing so, the Daughters staked an explicit claim for the DAR and for American women in the project of nation-building, by promoting their National Old Trails Road as a culmination of Manifest Destiny. This episode highlights the interrelationship of gender and the nation. This article argues that while women function passively in nationalist rhetoric to symbolise the nation, one must also acknowledge the agency of conservative women's groups in constructing and perpetuating nationalist narratives in ways that were often surprisingly complex and not simply imitative of men.

Keywords: Daughters of the American Revolution; National Old Trails Road; nation-building; road-building

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Nottingham UK

Publication date: 2004-01-01

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