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The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association was the first national historic preservation organization and is the oldest women's patriotic society in the United States. Its pioneering efforts in the field of preservation set an important precedent and have served as a model for many.

“If the men of America have seen fit to allow the home of its most respected hero to go to ruin, why can't the women of America band together to save it?”

In 1853, Louisa Bird Cunningham wrote these words to her daughter, Ann Pamela Cunningham, after seeing the decrepit state of George Washington's home while traveling on the Potomac River.

Inspired by her mother's words, Cunningham took it upon herself to challenge the nation to save Mount Vernon. She founded the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association in 1853 and by 1858 had raised $200,000 dollars to purchase the mansion and two hundred acres.

Birth of the Mount Vernon Ladies' Assocation

Early History

The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association is an intrepid group of American patriots who have been preserving and promoting George Washington's Mount Vernon for more than 160 years.

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Ann Pamela Cunningham

Ann Pamela Cunningham created the organization responsible for saving and restoring Mount Vernon. She led the organization as Regent from its inception in 1853 until she stepped down in 1874.

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John Augustine Washington III

John Augustine Washington III was the great-grand nephew of George Washington and the last private owner of Mount Vernon. He attempted to sell the property to both the federal government and the state of Virginia before agreeing to the Association's offer.

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The Kindness of Strangers

When the Association announced it would raise $200,000 to purchase George Washington’s home, many men scoffed at the idea. But those women proved to be as organized and as determined as the first commander in chief himself.

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The Civil War Years

Arrangements for the first restoration efforts in 1859 were halted by the nation’s political climate. From 1861 to 1865, the American Civil War raged near and around Mount Vernon.

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Past Regents of the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association

Explore the lives and legacies of the former Regents who have led the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association through its long history.

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Furnishing Mount Vernon

After inheriting a nearly empty home, the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association faced the tall task of recreating the Mansion's interior—room by room.

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Suffrage Movement

The MVLA was at the forefront of an explosion of all-female organizations in the 19th century. Women’s groups promoting issues such as abolition, temperance, child welfare, and historic preservation gave members an intellectual outlet, leadership experience, and increasingly public roles in society. Yet these women lacked one powerful tool—the right to vote.

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Historic Preservation

The Association has pioneered many important preservation concepts including embracing archaeological research as a primary source for learning about the past.

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Behind the Scenes

Meet some of the experts responsible for preserving and maintaining George Washington's Mount Vernon.

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My Top 10: MVLA Archives

Rebecca Baird, archivist for the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, picks 10 of her favorite items from the Association’s archives.

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Help Us Preserve Washington's Home

For more than 150 years, the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association has protected and preserved the home of the Father of Our Country.

We continue to restore and maintain the Mansion, grounds, and outbuildings so that the millions of people who visit each year can experience the estate as it looked at the time of Washington’s death in 1799.

We are proud that Mount Vernon does not accept government funding. We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and rely solely upon patriotic individuals, foundations, and corporations to help preserve George Washington’s home and to educate visitors from all over the world.

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Our Continuing Mission

The mission of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association is to preserve, restore, and manage the estate of George Washington to the highest standards and to educate visitors and people throughout the world about the life and legacies of George Washington, so that his example of character and leadership will continue to inform and inspire future generations.

Learn How We Accomplish Our Mission