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Fighting For Their Cause: Women’s Activism, from Mount Vernon to Suffrage

In this four-panel banner exhibition, learn how organizations like the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association gave women an outlet to effect social change, paving the way for women’s suffrage.

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In the 1850s a group of women banded together to save Mount Vernon. Founded by Ann Pamela Cunningham, the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association (MVLA) purchased George Washington’s home from its last private owner. The MVLA took ownership of the property in 1860 and opened to the public as a museum.

The MVLA was at the forefront of an explosion of all-female organizations in the 19th century. Women’s groups promoting issues such as abolition, temperance, child welfare, and historic preservation gave members an intellectual outlet, leadership experience, and increasingly public roles in society. Yet these women lacked one powerful tool—the right to vote.

Gaining access to the ballot box presented new obstacles, as women aimed to enter a sphere dominated entirely by men. It would take decades for suffrage activists to achieve their goal.

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