Some History

For 100 years the DBE in the USA has been a common bond for women of British heritage living in America. Members, joining together in fellowship, contribute significantly to the good of their local communities and support the four retirement homes for men and women established by the DBE.

Throughout the 20th century, members have maintained an extraordinary standard of volunteer work spanning two world wars, the Depression, right up to the liberated 1990's, and have a history of which to be duly proud.

This American based society was founded in 1909 by a remarkable woman, Mrs. J. Elliot Langstaff. She was born of English parents in St. Catherines, Ontario, Canada on April 14th, 1849. Adopted as an infant by Bridgewater Meredith, an Oxford man of Magdalen College, and his American wife, Caroline Arnold of New Jersey, where she grew up, she married Dr. John Elliot Langstaff in 1884 and then lived in Brooklyn, New York.

Her interests extended far beyond her home and love of music – for thirty years she took a leading part in the missionary work of the Episcopal Church of Long Island, and organised charitable events in many philanthropic fields. She had in her heart a sympathy for British people and realised that a group of British born women in a foreign country united in a common cause could be a power for good, both for themselves and for their adopted country. This was the vision that led her to found the Daughters of the British Empire.

Visiting Montreal, Josephine became acquainted with the work of the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire, and was so ipressed with their cameraderie that she organised, along similar lines, the Charter Chapter King Edward VII on March 15th, 1909, in New York. Legal status as an AMerican organisation was granted on December 8th, 1910, to the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire in the United States of America.

In 1915 the name was changed to Imperial Order Daughters of the British Empire in the USA Inc., and in April 1920 seven states signed a National Covenant to become The National Society Daughters of the British Empire in the United States of America.

The Peace Garden

In 1920, shortly after the DBE became a national organisation, the governments of Canada and the US planned to create a Garden of Peace on both sides of the border between the two countries.

The Province of Manitoba and the State of North Dakota donated 2,300 acres of land in the Turtle Mountains which became the International Peace Garden Inc., a living memorial to the long-established friendship between the two countries and a symbol of the peace and harmony existing along the longest unfortified boundary in the world.

World War I

Between 1914 and 1918 there were 76 new chapters, and DBE members were responsible for the largest War Relief Fund raised by any British organisationin the US. Illinois alone collected $139,510 (nearly $2 million in 2009 dollars); one NY chapter sold $1,375,000 in War Bonds (over $19 million in 2009 dollars); over £1,500 (over £54,000 in 2009 pounds)was raised for a British plane inscribed with Imperial Order Daughters of the British Empire in the USA;and incalculable amounts of knitting, sewing, food kitchens, hospital supplies, donations of ambulances and time and services to keep the home fires burning on both sides of the Atlantic.

World War II

Members worked with the British War Relief, American Red Cross, British Merchant Navy Clubs, Maple Leaf Clubs and many other war relief organisations. Six ambulances and a mobile kitchen were provided, and even after the war some states continued to send parcels of food and clothing directly to families in Great Britain.

These efforts did not go unnoticed and a significant number of medals, honors and citations were bestowed on members.

Our Southern District Home    


Mountbatten House, Inc.

213 Maple Street, Highlands, TX 77562

Opened in 1983, the home is built along the lines of an English country house. Set in an extensive English garden, it has twenty-four private rooms and beautiful public areas.

How did it all start? Plans for a Southern District Home in Jacksonville, Florida were started in 1927 but WWII and changes in zoning laws delayed the opening of ‘Bramfilles House’ till 1951. Twenty years later difficulties in maintaining the building led to its being sold. The resulting funds were transferred to the new Board of Trustees in Texas and in 1979 land was bought in Highlands; the new home was built with 16 private rooms and a new wing for 8 more residents was added later.

Visit Mountbatten House to see more pictures and get more information:

Southern Home: