Ann Pamela Cunningham
Ann Pamela Cunningham (1816-1875), America’s first historic preservationist founded the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, to save President George Washington’s home. The first historic preservation group in America, it was the stimulus for subsequent preservation efforts to identify and save other significant sites.
Ann Pamela Cunningham received a letter from her mother in 1853 informing her of the deplorable conditions of President George Washington’s home on the Potomac River in Northern Virginia. Cunningham immediately began a campaign to save the home site by writing to the Charleston Mercury, asking Southern women to save Mount Vernon. The story was picked up by other Southern papers and the American preservation movement began. The successful appeal to Southern women prompted Cunningham to enlist the support of women in the North and in 1854, the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association of the Union was created.
Although Cunningham was quite ill, she worked tirelessly to purchase the home for the American people. The process was protracted, complicated and mired in both political and personal clashes, but she prevailed against great odds. In 1858 the Association was able to purchase and to preserve George Washington’s home.