Monday, September 8, 2014

Organization of the Week: Mount Vernon Ladies' Association

Every Monday, I highlight a non-profit related to history or the arts, a historical society, preservation group or friends group whose main objective is to promote the historical and artistic history of New Jersey and beyond.

This week, I am featuring the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association. Founded in the late 1850s, the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association was the first national historic preservation organization and is the oldest women's patriotic society in the United States. The organization was founded when Louisa Bird Cunningham was traveling on the Potomac River and passed by Mount Vernon, the former home of George Washington. She was struck by its dilapidated appearance, and fearing that it would soon be lost due to lack of upkeep, Cunningham wrote a letter to her daughter Ann Pamela Cunningham. In the letter, Cunningham commented that if the men of the United States would not save the home of its greatest citizen, perhaps it should be the responsibility of the women. After convincing John Augustine Washington III to sell the property, Cunningham and the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association raised $200,000 to purchase the mansion and two hundred acres. The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association took over operation of the estate in 1860.

Today, the Association maintains a headquarters on the Mount Vernon property, and consists of a Regent, or chairman, and thirty trustees, or Vice Regents, who represent their home states. Mount Vernon is open to the public 365 days per year.

The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association receives no federal or state financial aid and relies solely on admission fees, revenues from food and gift sales, and donations from foundations, businesses, and individuals to continue its mission. For more information on programs, special events, and exhibits hosted by the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association or to become a member of Mount Vernon, please call 703-780-2000 or visit

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