Second Regent (1874-1891)

Lily Lytle Macalester was born on July 29, 1832, to Philadelphia financier Charles Macalester III and his first wife, Eliza Ann Lytle. She grew up close to her father, who gave her sound business training—particularly regarding the management of the family’s large Pennsylvania estate—that would later serve her well as Regent.

Vice Regent

Ann Pamela Cunningham appointed Lily Macalester the first Vice Regent for Pennsylvania in 1859. The two had become acquainted in Philadelphia during one of Miss Cunningham’s sojourns there for medical care. Miss Macalester’s work in the campaign to purchase Mount Vernon resulted in Pennsylvania’s ranking fifth among states in contributions.

In 1861 Lily married Alfred Berghmans, secretary of the Belgian legation to the United States; they had one daughter, Camille. He resigned from the diplomatic corps in 1872 due to ill health and died in 1874.

Regent

Objects purchased and donated by Mrs. Laughton, including a bedstead from the Lafayette bedchamber (left), and a walnut slant-top desk from George Washington's study (right). MVLA.

Objects purchased and donated by Mrs. Laughton, including a bedstead from the Lafayette bedchamber (left), and a walnut slant-top desk from George Washington's study (right). MVLA.

Visitors' Guide to Mount Vernon (1885). MVLA.

Visitors' Guide to Mount Vernon (1885). MVLA.

As she approached retirement, Miss Cunningham recommended that Mrs. Berghmans succeed her; she was unanimously elected at the Council of 1874.

In 1877 she married John Scott Laughton, and the couple traveled to Algiers, hoping its climate would improve his poor health. But he died there a few months later. She soon returned, “swathed in crepe,” to Washington, D.C., and resumed her duties as Regent.

She frequently attended auctions and sales where Mount Vernon-related items were available. Among the pieces she purchased that are displayed in the Mansion today are the bedstead and walnut lowboy in the Lafayette bedchamber, the brass bed warmer in Nelly Custis’s bedroom, and the walnut slant-top desk in George Washington’s study.

Mrs. Laughton’s first cousin, Elizabeth Haines Lytle Broadwell, was elected Vice Regent for Ohio in 1875, and her paternal aunt, Eliza Hay Brand Woodward (whose first husband was Edward Macalester), served as Vice Regent for Kentucky in the 1880s and 1890s.

The Regent’s daughter, Camille, wed a Spanish nobleman and moved to Madrid. The cable announcing the birth of their second child arrived during Council of 1891, and the delighted grandmother read it aloud to the Vice Regents. The Association voted Mrs. Laughton “leave of absence” to visit the young family. She died suddenly, at home in Glengarry, Pennsylvania, in December 1891, shortly after returning from Spain.

Preserving Mount Vernon

Since the 1850s, the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association has been working to preserve the home of George Washington.

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