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Oral Histories of the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association

 Collection
Identifier: A-ORH

Scope and Contents

The oral histories collected by the MVLA and the Washington Library include personal memories and reminiscences of previous Regents, Vice Regents, and Mount Vernon employees. The majority of the collection was recorded during the 2000s-2010s by staff members Sandra Robinette and Mary Thompson. This collection grows and accrues more recordings every year as other long-term employees and Board members contribute their stories. Mount Vernon's oral histories have most often been recorded via audio tape, some of which were then transferred to CD. The most recent interviews were digitally recorded and are only accessible in that format, or via the transcriptions. The date range of this collection is 1984-2020, but is consistently updated.

Dates

  • 1957-2015

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to research, except in cases where the subject has indicated a preference for a wait period before their oral history is released. Until items in the collection are digitized, transcriptions of the recordings should be the primary research tool as media players may not be available. Researchers must complete the Washington Library’s Special Collections and Archives Registration Form before access is provided. The library reserves the right to restrict access to items for preservation purposes.

Conditions Governing Use

Material can be reproduced for study or personal use upon written approval from library staff.

Biographical / Historical

The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association of the Union was founded in 1853 by Ann Pamela Cunningham. The purpose of the Association was to purchase Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington, in order to restore the property and open the grounds to visitors and admirers who desired to see Washington's house and tomb. Ann Pamela Cunningham became interested in the preservation of Mount Vernon when her mother, traveling down the Potomac River in 1853, saw the house in its neglected and dilapidated state and wrote to her daughter of its condition. Both women thought it shameful to allow the first President's home to fall into ruin. A determined Ann Pamela Cunningham assembled twenty-two women of like mind together to raise money to purchase the property, pay off all debt, and return the gardens and grounds to the condition in which they were left by Washington himself. John Augustine Washington III, George Washington's great-grandnephew and the owner of Mount Vernon at the time, delayed several years in selling the home to the Ladies' Association. He preferred a sale to the State of Virginia or the federal government, both of which declined purchase. In 1858 he finally agreed to sell Mount Vernon to Ann Pamela Cunningham and the MVLA for $200,000. The MVLA is the owner and executive board of Mount Vernon. Membership is made up of one Regent and 20-30 Vice Regents, each from a different state. All MVLA members assemble twice a year in April and October for Council, where they hear motions and reports concerning projects or issues at the estate. The Vice Regents also divide into committees focused on different functions and operations, and rotate members every few years. Today the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association is remembered as the first organization dedicated to historic preservation in the United States, and as innovators in the field of preservation. The Association remains loyal to its original goals, the restoration and care of Mount Vernon, and educating people all over the world about George Washington’s life and legacy. Mount Vernon is open to visitors 365 days a year. The estate now consists of not only the Mansion and tomb of Washington, but restored gardens, outbuildings, Pioneer Farm, Gristmill, Distillery, museum and orientation center, the National Library for the Study of George Washington, gift shops, food pavilion, and the Mount Vernon Inn restaurant.

Extent

2.5 Linear Feet (2 Hollinger document boxes, two media boxes)

Language of Materials

English

Arrangement

The collection is described alphabetically by the person's last name. Transcriptions are also arranged alphabetically. Physical media, audio cassettes and CDs, are arranged in separate boxes according to format.

Related Materials

- Audio/Visual Collection of the MVLA - Papers of the MVLA - Publications and Printed Material of the MVLA - Papers of the Superintendent and Resident Director - Papers of James Rees
Title
Oral Histories of the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association
Status
Completed
Author
Rebecca Baird, archivist, and Milan Cook, intern
Date
October 2018
Language of description
Undetermined
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Archives of the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association Repository

Contact:
PO Box 3600
Mount Vernon VA 22121 USA
703-799-3600