The Good Old Days? Women's Daily Lives Historic Sites In The Washington, DC Area

Historic Homes in Northern Virginia :

1) Arlington House, also known as Curtis-Lee Mansion


Location: Arlington Cemetery , Memorial Parkway, Turkey Run Park , McLean , Virginia
Open: daily 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Admission is free
For more information, visit: http://www.nps.gov/arho/

Completed in 1818 by George Washington Parke Curtis, step-grandson of President George Washington, as his family's home and a memorial to the president, he and his wife Mary Lee Fitzhugh lived there until their deaths in the 1850s. At that time, t heir daughter Mary Anna Randolph Curtis and her husband Robert E. Lee became the head of the household. The house was never in Robert E. Lee's name as Mary's father left it to her in his will and stipulated that after her death, her eldest son would receive the full title to the house and land. Mary and Robert lived in the house until 1861, when the cessation of Virginia from the Union caused Lee to fear for his family's safety and he encouraged them to leave while he served as a general in the Confederate Army. Mary did not want to leave behind her family home and she delayed the move as long as possible. During most of the war, the home was over taken by troops and then confiscated by the federal government when the property taxes were not paid in person by Ms. Lee. In 1864, the land was established as a national cemetery and the house was made uninhabitable should the Lee family ever try to return. The Lees never attempted to publicly recover control of the Arlington House and never returned. After their death, their son Curtis Lee filed a law suit in 1882 and the U.S. Supreme Court decided to return the property to him.

View of Guest Chamber from Inner Hall.

As home to famous individuals and sixty-three slaves, visitors can learn about many aspects of history and the various roles of women in all social classes during the early to mid 19 th century, particularly Mary Anna R. Lee. Mary frequently discussed politics with both her father and husband. Her superior education and cultural interests led her to take on the job of editing and publishing her father's Recollections , a collection of news articles and reminisces of life at Mount Vernon with the Washingtons that he periodically contributed to the National Intelligencer . The book, Recollections and Private Memoirs of Washington by His Adopted Son, George Washington Parke Custis, with a Memoir of the Author by His Daughter , was published in 1860. Mary taught the slaves at her home to sew, read and write. Advocating the idea of eventual emancipation, Mary wanted to ensure that the enslaved people would be able to support themselves when they were freed. She also bore and raised seven children.

2) Carlyle House Historic Park


Location: 121 North Fairfax Street in Alexandria , VA
Open: Tues. - Sat: 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Sun: noon – 4:30 p.m., tours are given on the half hour.
Admission: Adults $4, Children (ages 11-17) $2, Children under age 10 are free
For more information visit: http://www.carlylehouse.org

This historic Alexandria house was completed in 1753, and one of Alexandria 's founding families moved in that same year. Sarah and John Carlyle lived there for several years and the house has been restored to reflect the time period during which they were the owners. A prosperous family, they had many servants and slaves, and visitors will learn about the lives of all its members, from the wealthy mistress Sarah to the servants and slaves who worked for her. Guests can also enjoy the beautiful gardens surrounding the home.

3) The Claude Moore Colonial Farm


Location: 6310 Georgetown Pike, McLean , VA
Open: April through December, Wed. - Sun: 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Admission: Adults $3, Seniors and Children $2
For more information visit: http://www.1771.org

This living history farm demonstrates the lives of farmers in northern Virginia in the early 1770s. The farm includes displays of cooking, food preservation, and textile work traditionally associated with women. This is one of the few sites to focus on those struggling to make ends meet. The farm structures offer an excellent contrast to the DAR's Delaware room. The Delaware room depicts a wealthy family's study from roughly the same time frame. Visitors can walk around the farm and talk to the volunteers and staff dressed as members of the family who lived at the farm in 1771 and who will respond to questions as if it is that year. Often they will invite visitors to participate with them in their farm chores and activities. Guests use a brochure and map to navigate around the farm; it usually takes 45 minutes to an hour to see everything.

On the third weekend of May, July and October, visitors can also enjoy a market and fair on the grounds and watch artisans perform their crafts, visit different booths selling food, crafts, clothes etc. There are also activities visitors can participate in like tug-o-war, apple bobbing, and foot races.

4) Gunston Hall Plantation


Location: 10709 Gunston Road , Mason Neck, VA
Open: daily 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Admission: Adults $8, Seniors $7, Students (grade 1 through 12) $4, children 5
and younger are free
For more information visit: http://www.gunstonhall.org

Home to George Mason (1725-1792), an instrumental figure in creating the United States government, and his family for many years, this well-restored 550-acre plantation is a place where visitors can experience the lives of different classes of women in the 18 th century. The plantation was home to many people: the Masons, their servants and slaves, and artisans and their families. There are several special events throughout the year that guests can enjoy.

5) Ratcliffe-Allison House


ratcliffe-allison house in fairfax, vaLocation: 10386 Main Street, Fairfax, VA 22030
Open: During special events and as part of walking tours offered in the spring and fall
Admission: free
For more information, call Fairfax Museum & Visitor Center at 703.385.814 or visit http://www.historicfairfax.org/


Built in 1812, the City's oldest residence is located in the heart of the historic district and is open for touring. The small vernacular house is a rare example of its type, initially built as a speculative rental dwelling by Richard Ratcliffe, founder of the town of Providence. HFCI oversaw the renovation of the house in the late 1990s. Furnishings are from the last private owner, Kitty Barrett Pozer, who bequeathed the house to the City. The adjacent Pozer Garden, named in her honor, offers visitors a quiet respite in the busy downtown.

6) Sully Home


Location: 3601 Sully Road , Chantilly , VA
Open: Wed. - Mon: 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. House tours are given on the hour. Slave quarter tours are given at 2 pm daily Feb-Nov, and Nov-Feb by reservation only.
Admission to house: Adult $5, Student (16+) $4, Senior (60+) $3, and Child (5-15) $3 Admission to house and slave quarters is an additional $2/person
For more information, visit: http://www.co.fairfax.va.us/parks/sully/


Completed in 1799, the main house at Sully was built for Northern Virginia 's first Representative to Congress, Richard Bland Lee and his family. The large home has been restored to reflect the time period in which the Lee family lived there. Sully also includes tenant farmer's homes, slave quarters, and gardens. Guided tours highlight the early 19 th century life of the Lee family, the tenant farmers, and enslaved African Americans. Visitors to Sully can appreciate the vivid contrast it provides between today's life and the every day realities of life in the late 18 th , early 19 th centuries. Tours and learning center activities particularly focus on the processing of food, making of clothing, harsh slave life, and the schooling of Sully's residents.