Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Role of Women in Historic Preservation

Many people who have visited Washington, D.C. have also made the 16 mile drive to the south to visit Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington. This historic site remained in the possession of Washington’s family for three generations after his death. Finally, it was sold by John Washington, Jr., and was procured by the Mount Vernon Ladies Association.

The Mount Vernon Ladies Association, a group still in existence, is one of the earliest preservation groups in the US. It was begun in 1853 after Louise Bird Cunningham wrote to her daughter, Ann Pamela, about the home’s deteriorating conditions that she saw while on a steamship on the Potomac. Louise questioned that if the men of the nation would allow the home of the nation’s most respected citizen to deteriorate, perhaps the women could save it.

Ann Pamela Cunningham began a letter writing campaign, the first nation-wide fund-raising effort, to raise money to purchase the estate and the organization was begun. The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association took possession of the property on Washington’s birthday in 1860.

This organization was used as a model for later organizations and soon The Ladies’ Hermitage Association, The National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America, and The Daughters of the Republic of Texas began.

The influence of women in historic preservation has been great. It continues today. If you are interested in reading more here’s a link.