Rows of china teacups sat expectantly on the kitchen island while 13 women with British accents chattered away in the next room. The women are members of Daughters of the British Empire, a nationwide organization whose mission is to bring together, in friendship, women of British and Commonwealth of Nations birth or ancestry for charitable, cultural and educational purposes.
Meeting each month, DBE’s Sunday, May 28, gathering was in Farragut at the Glenn Abbey home of Chrissy Harris. In addition to their chapter business, the women observed a moment of silence for those killed in the Manchester, England, terrorist bombing and went around the circle to give tribute to loved ones who had served in the British or American militaries.
There are two chapters of the DBE in Tennessee, both in Knox County. The women at Harris’s house are the Centre Court Chapter, which always meets on a Sunday. The Wimbledon group meets once a month in the evening.
Several of the women in Harris’s living room arrived in the United States after marrying an American serviceman and the majority have spent many years in the United States.
They raise money throughout the year with small events such as cookouts. “We raised $400 last night,” Gillian Perkins said about a cookout held at her neighborhood pool Saturday, May 27.
The biggest DBE event is a formal tea party held in December. This year the tea begins at 1 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 2, at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Lenoir City. The event is popular and sells out well in advance — tickets are already on sale and can be purchased at http://dbeintennessee.com/wp/.
While tea and refreshments waited, they discussed how to raise money for their special cause: the Mountbatten House, an assisted living home for men and women in Texas.
“The resident count is 11 with 10 women and one man,” Diane Jones, Centre Court Chapter president, said. “Steps are being taken to increase marketing. The residents are enjoying coloring and donations of coloring books are welcome.”
In addition to Mountbatten House, the women also donate to local charities.
“Eighty percent goes to the home,” Jones said, “and 20 percent can go to a local charity. This past time [in December], we sent 20 percent to the Dollywood Foundation.”
Their mission was laid out in 1909 by the founder of the nationwide organization, Sarah Josephine Langstaff. Langstaff was a British national living in the United States who wanted to be sure elderly British people here had a place to live out their final days. Since she founded the first chapter, many others have sprung up across the country.
“We’re hoping to expand into Nashville,” Perkins said. “We went over a few weeks ago and met with the ladies.”
The women discussed entertainment for the big tea, including a possible appearance from Farragut High School’s Madrigal Singers.
In the meantime, members
are looking forward to a road
trip to the DBE Southern district organizers meeting at Hotel
Indigo in New Orleans in September, where they will be part of about 50 women from Southern states.
To find out more about local Daughters of the British Empire chapters, go to www.dbeintennessee.com.