For more than a century, the Daughters of the Republic of Texas — nearly 7,000 women who trace their pedigrees back to the origins of the Texas Republic — have had total control of the Alamo, the state’s most revered historic site. They maintain what’s left of the old mission, manage its historic exhibits and run the gift shop. They don’t charge admission, and the site doesn’t cost the state government a penny.
Now a small group of renegade Daughters has broken away, saying the Daughters’ outmoded traditions and iron grip on the “Shrine of Texas Liberty” are holding back progress and preventing much-needed preservation work from moving ahead. They liken their declaration of independence to Texas’s own split from Mexico in 1836.
Their spats — over parking spaces, new exhibitions, officer elections — have become the stuff of local legend. “It’s almost automatic. Every four years, they have a fight,” says Marco Barros, president of the San Antonio Area Tourism Council.
The system, along with the internal battles, makes it difficult to get things done, says former director David Stewart, who resigned in May after seven years on the job. “It’s a real trip to work for 6,700 women,” Mr. Stewart said. The Daughters say they weren’t aware of his complaints until after Mr. Stewart left.
The group has shunned traditional tools of nonprofits; ideas like a “friends” program to encourage big donors, an annual fund and an official logo never got off the ground, say former insiders. Instead, they have relied on sales of souvenir coonskin caps modeled on the one supposedly worn by Mr. Crockett, toy “Bowie” knives and pistol-shaped shot glasses in their own Alamo gift shop to provide more than 90% of the site’s roughly $5 million annual budget.
In 2007, though, the Daughters realized they needed a huge injection of money to finance plans for Alamo preservation and expansion, and voted to launch an unprecedented $60 million fund-raising campaign. The group appointed Ms. Bowman to lead the effort.
She tackled the job in a way the group says it didn’t expect. For example, she met with potential donors without telling Ms. Roberts, then still the president-general. In a break from the Daughters’ do-it-yourself style, she brought in an outside fund-raising firm. She brushed aside offers by local Daughters’ chapters to hold bake sales or other small fund-raisers.
“They are very nice people. They just don’t understand how to do business,” Ms. Bowman says of the Daughters.
Ms. Bowman secured a $1 million gift and several smaller donations in seed money for the campaign. But relations with the Daughters’ leadership deteriorated as they fought over how much autonomy Ms. Bowman should have.
In May 2008, the Daughters ousted Ms. Bowman from her volunteer position, citing various violations, including submitting grant applications without getting Ms. Roberts’s signature as president-general.
“She’s very attractive. Very personable…I think she lost track of the fact that she was not above the rules,” Ms. Roberts says.
In the months since, Ms. Bowman has been undeterred. Though technically still a Daughter, she formed Friends of the Alamo and continued raising money. She set up a Facebook page for her group and keeps her supporters updated on Twitter.
“We are looking to the future,” Ms. Bowman says, adding that the Daughters have been “completely focused on, ‘We’ve been great for 105 years.’ “
Last week, three members of the Daughters’ board sent a letter to Ms. Bowman saying they were seeking to expel her and one of her supporters from the group. “It would be sheer idiocy for the DRT to tolerate members who seek to torpedo the DRT’s legitimate fund-raising efforts,” the letter read. Ms. Bowman says she will hire a lawyer to fight the expulsion. Ms. Roberts says she hadn’t seen the letter.
The article has a nifty little timeline that shows the history of the Alamo as weel, including movies and historical stuff. A nice weekend read here; Highly recommended!