Ladies' Hermitage Association

The Ladies' Hermitage Association was organized in 1889 to honor President Andrew Jackson by preserving his home, the Hermitage. Mrs. Andrew Jackson III and Mary C. Dorris suggested a women's association similar to The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association after Dorris had become fearful that the State of Tennessee would dispose of the property by giving it to the Confederate Soldiers' Home Association as a home for indigent Confederate veterans. In January 1889 Dorris appointed a committee of women to write a charter for the organization.

While they waited for the passage of the bill assigning responsibility for the Hermitage to the women's group, the organizers determined to obtain a state charter. On February 19, 1889, Mrs. Rachel J. Lawrence, Mary W. May, Mrs. Mary Hadley Claire, Mrs. E. L. Nicholson, Louise Grundy Lindsley, Mrs. Henry Heiss, and Mary C. Dorris applied for the state charter, stating that the Ladies' Hermitage Association would acquire the residence, tomb, and land of the Hermitage in order to "beautify, preserve, and adorn the same throughout all coming years, in a manner most befitting the memory of that great man [Jackson]." (1)

In the final days of the 1889 legislative session, both houses passed a bill giving the Hermitage estate to the Confederate Soldiers' Home, but amended the bill to exempt the house, tomb, and twenty-five acres of land surrounding the house. The state Senate then passed a bill deeding the house to the Ladies' Hermitage Association. In the House of Representatives, John H. Savage, a former Confederate officer from McMinnville, strongly opposed deeding the property to the women's organization. On the day before adjournment, Savage, who was known as the "old man of the mountain," made an impassioned speech against the bill. At the urging of John Berrien Lindsley, the Ladies' Hermitage Association lobbied on behalf of their cause, and Savage changed his mind.

As soon as Governor Robert L. Taylor signed the bill, the Ladies' Hermitage Association began renovating the house and grounds. In the early years, the organization devoted most of its efforts to fund-raising--sponsoring plays, concerts, and shows, and holding barbeques and luncheons to raise needed funds. In 1897 the association began to purchase possessions and furniture that had belonged to Jackson. After a visit by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907, Congress made a financial contribution to the association so that a water system could be installed. Later congressional appropriations allowed the association to acquire portraits of Jackson as well as to make needed repairs. The state conveyed additional land to the association in 1923 and 1935. The National Park Service designated the Hermitage a National Historic Landmark in 1961. Four years later, the association acquired the old Hermitage Church, and in 1971 it began its support for the collection and publication of the Papers of Andrew Jackson. The Ladies' Hermitage Association continues to manage the home and property, which receives more than 250,000 visitors annually.

Published » December 25, 2009 | Last Updated » February 21, 2011