Dubuque’s own Lillian Clark Cary was President of the Iowa Chapter of the National Order of the Ladies of the GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) when she attended the 1915 annual state convention in Sioux City. An auxiliary group of the GAR, this all-female association was open to “the loyal mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, granddaughters and blood kin nieces of soldiers, sailors and marines, who served honorably in aiding and maintaining the integrity and supremacy of the National Government during the Rebellion, and ex-army [n]urses, and all lineal female descendants.”[1]

The GAR was a fraternal organization for Union veterans of the Civil War, and as such, included only men. Women also felt compelled to recognize and honor those who served the Union, and through this organization also promoted patriotic education and community service. Together, both groups worked to establish the holiday we now call Memorial Day.

After two years serving as President of the state chapter, Cary soon went on to serve as the organization’s national President from 1919-1920. Dedicated to preserving history, by 1922 she became the first woman to serve on the State of Iowa’s Board of Curators. She also served as President of the Dubuque Historical and Memorial Association and was very involved with the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Above is a button and a photo of Cary. The red, white, and blue ribbon reads, "ANNUAL CONVENTION / DEPT. OF IOWA / LADIES OF G.A.R. / SIOUX CITY / JUNE 8-9-10, 1915.” This artifact was gifted to the Dubuque County Historical Society’s collection in 2020 by Kurt Gaylor in memory of Vivian White.

[1] Rules and Regulations of the Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic (Scranton, PA: Reeser Bros., 1909), 7.