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Women with a View Symposium

March 9, 2014

The view from George Washington’s Mount Vernon is as remarkable now as it was over 200 years ago. The story behind the preservation of that view is the subject of “Women with a View,” a symposium at Mount Vernon on March 9th at 2:00 P.M.

The symposium will feature stories of the extraordinary women whose vision and leadership blazed new trails in historic preservation and land conservation.: Ann Pamela Cunningham, founder of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association; Alice Ferguson, artist and amateur archaeologist, who began the effort to protect the natural landscape along the Potomac across from Mount Vernon; and Congresswoman Frances Payne Bolton, who halted commercial development along the Potomac through purchase of a key property and then created the Accokeek Foundation to continue preservation efforts. A coalition of partners launched a campaign that led to permanent protection of this landscape through the creation of Piscataway Park, a significant milestone in the history of land conservation and public / private partnerships.

2:00 - 2:15

Barbara B. Lucas, Regent Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association
Welcome and Introduction

2:15 - 2:45

Julia A. King, Professor, St. Mary’s College, Maryland, The Nation’s River: History, Environment, and Stewardship in the Potomac River Valley

2:45 - 3:15

Carol Cadou, Vice President Historic Preservation and Collections, Mount Vernon
“Religiously Guarded from Change”: Ann Pamela Cunningham’s Vision for George Washington’s Mount Vernon

3:15 - 3:45

Lori Arguelles, Executive Director, Alice Ferguson Foundation, The Many A’s of Alice: The Life and Legacy of Alice Ferguson

3:45 - 4:00


4:00 - 4:30

John H. Sprinkle, Jr., Bureau Historian, National Park Service, Valuing Vision: Frances Payne Bolton and the Preservation of George’s Washington’s “Overview”

4:30 - 5:00

Lisa Hayes, President, Accokeek Foundation, A View for the Future

5:00 - 6:00

Cocktails in Ann Pamela Cunningham Building and tours of the Viewshed and Mansion

The Nation’s River: History, Environment, and Stewardship in the Potomac River Valley

Julia A. King
St. Mary’s College of Maryland

By the mid-20th-century, the Potomac River had become both “the nation’s river” and, in President Johnson’s words, a “national disgrace.” The first label acknowledged the river’s unparalleled role in American history while the second lamented the environmental challenges the last hundred years had visited upon the Potomac. These environmental challenges had been shaped by the river’s history, from population growth to westward expansion, from rising standards of living to issues of state sovereignty. This presentation provides a regional context for the stewardship first modeled by Ann Pamela Cunningham and, nearly a century later, by Alice Ferguson and Frances Payne Bolton. These women recognized that the Potomac’s environmental history is indivisible from its human history, and that land conservation and historic preservation are obvious bedfellows. It’s a lesson that bears repeating in the 21st century.

“Religiously Guarded from Change”: Ann Pamela Cunningham’s Vision for George Washington’s Mount Vernon

Carol Cadou
Vice President Historic Preservation & Collections, MVLA

When Ann Pamela Cunningham founded the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association in 1853, she charted new territory for female philanthropy in America as well as historic preservation in this country. Her early efforts to protect and to preserve George Washington’s Mount Vernon articulated what has become known as Whole Place Preservation. The members of the Ladies’ Association who have followed Cunningham have religiously followed her lead in guarding Mount Vernon lands and views from change. This illustrated lecture explores the roots of land conservation in Cunningham’s 19th century vision as well as in the 20th and 21st century efforts of the Regents and Vice Regents who have followed her.

The Many A’s of Alice: The Life and Legacy of Alice Ferguson

Lori Arguelles
Executive Director, Alice Ferguson Foundation

As a woman coming of age at the turn of the 20th century, Alice L. L. Ferguson lived and worked during both World Wars, The Jazz Age, the Great Depression and the New Deal that brought intellectual energy to Washington, DC. During this time the modern woman challenged past norms finding a new voice through education, creative expression, travel, activism and independence. Alice was an accomplished artist that trained at the Corcoran School of Art. Her marriage to Henry G. Ferguson, a world-renowned geologist, presaged a life of adventure and travel that also involved purchasing a ’country home’—Hard Bargain Farm--in Accokeek, MD. This avant-garde adventurer became an architect, agrarian, activist, archeologist and author, all as a result of that purchase. Instrumental in shaping and ultimately preserving the landscape now known as the Mount Vernon viewshed, we owe much to the amazing life and legacy of Alice L. L. Ferguson.

Valuing Vision: Frances Payne Bolton and the Preservation of George’s Washington’s “Overview”

John H. Sprinkle, Jr., Ph.D.
Bureau Historian, National Park Service

Representative Francis Payne Bolton, who served as Vice Regent for Ohio from 1938 to the late-1970s, is generally considered “second only to Ann Pamela Cunningham” for her contribution to the preservation of Mount Vernon. This often-quoted accolade stems from her dedication during the third quarter of the twentieth century to ensuring that the view across the Potomac River from the estate would never be compromised by unsightly development. The significance of Mrs. Bolton’s vision and the value she placed on preserving what contemporaries called Washington’s “overview” can be elucidated by seating her achievements within a national context for the historic preservation and land conservation movements from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s.

A View for the Future

Lisa Hayes, PhD
President and CEO, The Accokeek Foundation

How can the legacy of these "women with a view" shape the preservation landscape of the future? Dr. Hayes will explore the opportunities for transforming this history-making effort of the past into the centerpiece of a national conversation on a holistic approach to conservation and preservation.

Lisa Hayes, PhD. As President of the Accokeek Foundation, Dr. Hayes continues the Foundation’s pivotal work in preservation of the Mount Vernon Viewshed that was the original reason for the Foundation's creation in 1957, Through a cooperative agreement with the National Park Service, the Accokeek Foundation connects visitors to history, agriculture, and nature through its stewardship of 200 acres of Piscataway Park and educational programming at the National Colonial Farm and the Ecosystem Farm. She serves as co-chair of the Potomac River Heritage Tourism Alliance and is on the Indigenous Cultural Landscape team of the National Park Service's Captain John Smith Trail. Before earning a PhD in American Studies at the University at Buffalo, Hayes was an actress and playwright. She continues her creative work when possible, and will be debuting a new solo play on women and war in The Hague in April.

Event Details

COST: $30
DATE: March 9, 2014
TIME: 2:00 pm
Smith Auditorium,
George Washington's Mount Vernon
3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway,
Mount Vernon, Virginia 22121

Preservation at Mount Vernon

In 1858, Ann Pamela Cunningham and the Ladies of Mount Vernon helped save Washington's home. Learn more about how we preserve his world today.

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Save Washington's View

Learn more about how you can help preserve George Washington’s historic Potomac view. This stunning view from his mansion at Mount Vernon remains under threat as development threats continue to arise on the far shore.

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