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

—Louisa Bird Cunningham to her daughter Ann Pamela Cunningham, 1853

These incendiary words, penned by Louisa Bird Cunningham on seeing the deteriorating remains of Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home in the Virginia countryside, speak to the impassioned response that historic property can elicit. Quickly rising to her mother’s challenge, Ann Pamela Cunningham not only launched the first national campaign to save this iconic property, but also founded America’s first historic preservation organization, the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, in 1853. Unwittingly, she had ushered in the beginning of the...


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