Born in 1860 at Salem, Ohio, Sarah Mitchell Guernsey moved with her parents to Kansas in the 1860s, her father serving as a minister in the Methodist Episcopal Church. She would marry George Thatcher Guernsey, a prominent banker in Independence, Kansas.
Among her many activities Mrs. Guernsey was active in the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). She would serve as State Regent for Kansas before being elected as the 9th President General of the Society, the first elected from west of the Mississippi River. She served a three-year term from 1917 to 1920.
She was a very active President General, and because her term coincided with the Great War, she was known as the “War President.” The DAR was deeply involved in activities of relief and very successful at it.
One such effort—and it’s described as unconventional—was a campaign to address the poultry shortage in France. The effort was to “re-chickenize” France, and members collected dimes and quarters for the cause, and in return donors received a pin that said, “I have a chicken in France.” This was aimed at children to help them appreciate measures of thrift and self-sacrifice.
As described in the campaign: “10 cents puts an egg in an incubator, or 35 cents places a chick on a French Farm. The hatching eggs are in southern France and Spain, the incubators are now in France, and the dimes needed to combine the two are in the pockets of American Children.”
Funds were also raised to help restore the village of Tilloloy, France. This included a water system built with $130,000 raised by the DAR. Mrs. Guernsey visited Tilloloy in 1919 to see the work accomplished by the DAR’s aid.
Mrs. Guernsey encourage the purchase of Liberty Loan bonds by members, and invested the DAR’s money as well, a total of $100,000. The money from the repayment of the loan went toward the construction of the DAR’s national headquarters in Washington.
In addition, the DAR in her time encouraged the adoption of French war orphans.
When her term was completed, she once again became the State Regent. Sarah Guernsey died in Independence in 1939.
(My thanks goes out to the Kansas DAR. At their annual state meeting they paid particular attention to Sarah Guernsey and the centennial of her election to the post of President General, and this article owes much to that meeting.)