Klepp, Susan E.; Jenkins, Wilbert L., 1953-; Wells, Jonathan Daniel, 1969-; Alpert, Rebecca T. (Rebecca Trachtenberg), 1950- (Temple University. Libraries, 2011)
      The acquisition of the home of George Washington by the Mount Vernon Ladies Association in 1858 was probably the first preservation project led by women in the United States. During the following decades, elite Philadelphia and Montgomery County women continued the construction of historical memory through the organization and popularization of exhibitions, fundraising galas, preservation of historical sites, publication of historical writings, and the erection of patriotic monuments. Drawing from a wide variety of sources, including annual organizations' reports, minutes of committees and of a DAR chapter, correspondence, reminiscences, newspapers, circulars, and ephemera, the dissertation argues that privileged women constructed a classed and gendered historical memory, which aimed to write women into the national historical narrative and present themselves as custodians of history. They constructed a subversive historical account that placed women on equal footing with male historical figures and argued that women played a significant role in shaping the nation's history. During the first three decades, privileged women advanced an idealized memory of Martha and George Washington with an intention to reconcile the sectional rift caused by the Civil War. From the early 1890s, with the formation of the Daughters of the American Revolution, elite women of colonial and revolutionary war ancestry constructed a more inclusive memory of revolutionary soldiers that aimed to inculcate the public, particularly recent immigrants, in patriotic and civic values. An introductory chapter demonstrates the social, political, and economic vulnerability of the elites and the institutions and historical memory they forged to shore up their privileged status from the colonial period to the Civil War. Through the organization of the Great Central Fair held in Philadelphia in 1864, the fundraising campaign on behalf of the Centennial Exposition, the preservation of George Washington's Headquarters at Valley Forge, the formation of the Historical Society of Montgomery County, and the activities of the Valley Forge Chapter DAR the dissertation demonstrates that women employed their experience to expand their activities beyond regional boundaries while also tending to local history. The dissertation contributes to the discussion regarding the construction of memory by adding gender and class as categories of analysis. It also adds to the historical debate regarding the professionalization of history by exploring women's historical writings during the period of institutionalization of history.