Growing up in Portland, Oregon, the annual Highland Games were always held on my birthday weekend. Now, this is not a great idea as my birthday is in mid-July, and Oregonians are not known for doing well in the heat, even when they aren't dressed in wool in the middle of summer. But my mother, whose maiden name was McLean, always took us. I think there is some genetic call to hearing a massed bagpipe band play "Scotland The Brave." We would watch the caber toss and eat vaguely Scottish food, (although we never tried haggis,) and stop and chat with the folk at the McLean tent. My mother loved tracing genealogy lines and digging into the whys as well as the whens.
There was always a sense of pride of being Scottish that was more pronounced than anything from my German side of the family. Perhaps since those relatives came to America a century before the Scottish, no one really remembered being German. So it was with this Scottish fondness that I sought out friends that belonged to the St. Andrew's Society in Washington, D.C., and it's how they got to know me to ask me to help start a new women's society with similar goals.
So, now the National Capital Region now has two societies that celebrate Scottish culture and ancestry.
The St. Andrew's Society of Washington, D.C., with origins in colonial Virginia and Georgetown, is a charitable and social organization of men of Scottish birth or ancestry. The Society, officially founded in 1855 and incorporated in 1908, succeeds in the national capital area the old Saint Andrew's Society of Alexandria, Virginia, which had its first documented assembly in 1788 and was for a time incorporated into the District of Columbia.
The objectives of the St. Andrew's Society are to afford charitable and educational assistance to Scotsmen, lineal descendants of Scotsmen, and to their widows and orphans, to perpetuate Scottish traditions and culture, and to promote social activities among its members.
After much discussion, the leadership of The St. Andrew's Society of Washington, D.C decided to reach out to local women of Scottish birth or ancestry to form a sister group. In June of 2017, I was asked to serve as the first co-chairwoman this new group and form its mission, membership, and foundation.
The response from women in the area has been enthusiastic. This was obviously a need in the community and the local women with Scottish ancestry are eager to gather together.
As we are not an "auxiliary" group of the St. Andrew's Society, our mission differs slightly. While we certainly want to promote Scottish traditions and participate in social activities like our brother organization we also want to highlight Scottish-American culture. With the current concerns of immigration, we want to bring to light the important contributions to American culture that were offered by those that came to our shores from Scotland. We would like children of all ages to learn about Scottish-American contributions in every area of American history from music to dance to major industry.
Future projects include hosting Scottish-American events, participating in local school multicultural events, and partnering with our brother organization to promote the celebration of Scottish culture. If you would like to read more about our founding year, I encourage you to seek out our website at scotswomendc.org.