Martha Washington College

Martha Washington College was established as an educational institution for young women by the Independent Order of Odd Fellows McCabe Lodge No. 56 in 1853 when they purchased land for the construction of the college. The name was chosen to honor George Washington’s wife as “a perfect model of womanly excellence,” as proclaimed by Colonel John Campbell.

The Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church took control of the project in 1858, and acquired the General Francis Preston’s circa-1830 residence to house the college. Used occasionally as a hospital (with some students serving as nurses) and a training ground for the “Washington Mounted Rifles,” Martha Washington College remained open during the Civil War, although its students were sometimes sent home or boarded in private Abingdon residences. The school merged with Emory & Henry College in 1918, and in 1921 it became a junior college. Due to a variety of factors it closed its doors in 1931. The structure remained vacant until 1935 (some accounts say 1937) when the former main building was transformed into the Martha Washington Inn.

Kelly Library houses some artifacts from “The Martha’s” days as a women’s college.

The first group of photographs are of a tea cup and saucer from Martha Washington College. According to Three Quarters of a Century at Martha Washington College by Claude D. Curtis (Bristol TN-VA, 1928), it is possibly “Martha’s Cup,” and is supposed to have come from an original set that belonged to Martha Custis Washington.

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The second set of images is from various years of The Cameo, the annual of Martha Washington College.

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The other photographs are of objects donated by Mrs. William L. Ditges from Abingdon, VA, probably in the 1970s: an aluminum ash tray with an engraving of Martha Washington College a china pitcher that was made in Germany with a painted image of the college, and a china vase.

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Little is known about these objects; the only information available for the MWC ashtray, pitcher and vase is the name and city of the donor. If you have any additional information on these MWC artifacts, please contact Kelly Library, 276.944.6208, or email AskALibrarian@ehc.edu.