The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America is a patriotic and historical society of American women organized in 1891, headquartered in Washington, D.C., and composed of forty-four state societies, including the District of Columbia. To be eligible for membership, a woman must be descended from someone who was born by 1749 and resided in one of the thirteen colonies by 1750, and who rendered efficient service to the country before 1776. The Texas Society was organized and incorporated on February 26, 1898, with Mrs. Samuel M. Welch as first president. Headquarters of the Texas Society is the Neill-Cochran House on San Gabriel Street in Austin, built by Abner Cook in 1855 and considered to be an excellent example of Southern Greek Revival architecture. It was purchased from Mrs. Raymond Hill, née Frankie Cochran, by the Dames in 1958. They restored it and furnished it with period furnishings. It was opened to the public as a museum in 1962, and is open for tours.
The Texas Society's projects follow the objectives of the National Society. In 1901 a group of Dames attended a session of the Texas Congress to persuade the legislators to choose the bluebonnet as the state flower. After showing them a painting of bluebonnets, which now hangs in the Neill-Cochran House, the Dames succeeded in their effort. In addition to taking part in the restoration of the San José y San Miguel de Aguayo Mission in San Antonio, and the ongoing maintenance of the Neill-Cochran House, the Texas Society was invited by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas to furnish a room in the French Legation. The parlor was chosen. In addition, the Dames give an annual scholarship to a university graduate student of American history. The Texas Society sponsors an essay contest for high school students to attend a Washington Workshop Seminar for a week in Washington, and raises funds for a scholarship for an American Indian to go to nursing school, so that after graduation she can serve her own people. The members of the society provide flag programs, attend naturalization ceremonies to greet new citizens, and promote recognition of Bill of Rights Day. They also help publish books of significant historical interest and preserve paintings, manuscripts, and buildings connected with the early history of the United States. This organization should not be confused with another national group, Colonial Dames of America, which has chapters in Texas but sends its dues to its national headquarters.
The Handbook of Texas Women project has its own dedicated website and resources.