Ann Pamela Cunningham
Ann Pamela Cunningham (August 15, 1816, Rosemont Plantation, South Carolina - May 1, 1875) was an early activist in historic preservation who founded The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association in 1853 and served for years as its first regent. She gained participation by women leaders from all 30 states of the Union at that time. The Association raised all the capital needed to complete its purchase of Mount Vernon by 1859 and took possession on February 22, Washington's birthday. The Association continues to own and operate, Mount Vernon, George Washington's home and plantation.
Cunningham was born in 1816 to Louisa and Robert Cunningham and lived all her life on her parents' Rosemont Plantation in Laurens County, South Carolina. It was devoted to cotton cultivation. She was educated at home and learned to ride horses. Ladies then rode sidesaddle, and she was crippled as a teenager from a riding accident. She never married.
While passing Mount Vernon by steamboat on the Potomac River, her mother saw its deteriorated condition and wrote about it to Cunningham. She decided to take on the project of raising money to buy the property for preservation. At that point neither the Commonwealth of Virginia nor the federal government's legislatures would approve such purchases, as the dealt with the impending war.
Cunningham was in her 30s when she initiated her campaign, first writing an open letter to a local newspaper addressed to "the Ladies of the South" to raise money for the first President's home. She founded The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, seeking representative women leaders from each of the 30 states in the union.  Cunningham served as its first regent.
The Mount Vernon Ladies Association bought Mount Vernon, its outbuilding and 200 acres for $200,000. They were successful in raising all funds needed to complete the purchase from John A. Washington in 1859. This Association is the oldest private preservation organization in the United States. The group still owns and manages Washington's estate and is open to visitors 365 days a year.
- Abbatt, William, ed. “Ann Pamela Cunningham, ‘The Southern Matron.’” The Magazine of History with Notes and Queries, Volume V. January –June (1907): 336–343.
- Horstman, N. W. “The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association of the Union.” The Magazine Antiques. 135 (1989): 454–61.
- Howe, Barbara J. “Women in Historic Preservation: the Legacy of Ann Pamela Cunningham.” The Public Historian. 12.1 (1990): 31–61.
- Page, Thomas Nelson. Mount Vernon and its Preservation, 1858–1910. New York: Knickerbocker Press, 1910.