Mt. Vernon Ladies’ Association of the Union records, 1858-1859
Collection Scope and Content
This collection contains correspondence relating to fundraising activities, two copies of the Association’s newsletter, the Association’s constitution and by-laws, and other related material. The bulk of the letters are addressed to Arabella Carter, Agent of the Mt. Vernon Ladies’ Association for Oxford County, from Abba Isabella Little, Vice Regent of the Mt. Vernon Ladies’ Association for the state of Maine.
In 1853, Ann Pamela Cunningham of South Carolina began working under the name “The Southern Matron” to save the home and grave of George Washington from ruin. John A. Washington, great-nephew of Washington, was without the financial means to restore the estate, and both Congress and the state of Virginia had declined the opportunity to purchase the historic landmark. The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association of the Union was formed with Cunningham as the organization’s first regent. Margaret Jane Mussey Sweat, a prominent Portland resident, was the secretary for the Maine chapter. With the help of vice-regents and agents in each state, as well as large contributions from Edward Everett of Massachusetts, $200,000 had been raised by the end of 1858, enough to purchase the estate. The mission of the association was as follows: “To perpetuate the sacred memory of ‘The Father of his Country’ and, with loving hands, to guard and protect the hallowed spot where rest his remains. To forever hold, manage and preserve the estate, properties and relics at Mount Vernon, belonging to the Association and, under proper regulation, to open the same to the inspection of all who love the cause of liberty and revere the name of Washington.” The Mt. Vernon Ladies’ Association continues to maintain the property to this day.