From Curbed’s best reads on trailblazing women designers to the New York Times’s belated obituaries for extraordinary women they overlooked, lots of amazing stories were surfaced yesterday for International Women’s Day. But as Women’s History Month rolls on, you shouldn’t miss a gem of a tale shared by the CIA, of all places, about two remarkable women and one historic house.
Yesterday the CIA published a feature on Margaret Scattergood and Florence Thorne, two women who were heavyweights in the American Federation of Labor in the early- and mid-20th-century, making significant contributions to advancing women’s rights in the workplace and child labor laws. For over 50 years, Scattergood and Thorne were also owners and residents of a 1926-built Georgian Revival house on a quiet 20 acres in Northern Virginia. Dubbed the Calvert Estate, the 5,000-square-foot house would eventually become part of the grounds of the CIA, who made for an unusual neighbor and future steward of the historic home.
Check out the CIA’s tweet thread below for a bite-sized telling of the story, or head here for all the details.
The oldest structure on CIA grounds is a 4 story Georgian Revival house built in 1926.— CIA (@CIA) March 8, 2018
It was occupied by Margaret Scattergood & Florence Thorne for 53 years. Neither could have predicted who would become their neighbors.https://t.co/9GT98schmE pic.twitter.com/kpgKK9Sh1B
1926: Margaret moved to DC to work for the American Federation of Labor (AFL) where she met Florence. They both worked @ AFL until they retired & are credited w significant contributions to labor movement, including advancing women’s rights in the workplace & child labor laws.— CIA (@CIA) March 8, 2018
Margaret & Florence purchased the house & 20 acres of land in 1933. They dubbed it, “the Calvert Estate,” in tribute to Florence’s distinguished lineage – her mother was a direct descendant of Sir George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore of Maryland.— CIA (@CIA) March 8, 2018
The 5,000 square-foot house consisted of four stories that included a large attic & basement for storage. The porch was one of the women’s favorite places to sit & listen to the small stream trickling across their land. pic.twitter.com/BV2zmVL84a— CIA (@CIA) March 8, 2018
Margaret & Florence had been living on their estate for 15 years when @USDOTFHWA acquired 742 acres around them for a research facility. Being proactive, they made an agreement to an upfront purchase of their property, but they could remain living there until they passed away.— CIA (@CIA) March 8, 2018
1950s: CIA Director Dulles began looking for a location for a new HQ building, one that would offer a campus-like setting, afford security, & privacy. The land surrounding the Calvert Estate fit the bill.— CIA (@CIA) March 8, 2018
1973: Florence passed away, at age 95. CIA DDA at the time, Harry Fitzwater, grew concerned for Margret’s safety and health & instructed CIA security officers to check on her & make sure she was alright. pic.twitter.com/8Q6lcX2wZe— CIA (@CIA) March 8, 2018
1980s: Margaret, a pacifist, opened her home to Sandinistas from Nicaragua, while CIA had been authorized to support to the Contras. More than once, Sandinistas arrived at the CIA’s main entrance only to be redirected to the Calvert Estate.— CIA (@CIA) March 8, 2018
1984: Managers of the New HQ Building construction project inquired about the feasibility of infringing slightly upon Margaret’s property to expand some roadwork around Headquarters. Respecting her privacy, the CIA’s Office of General Counsel responded with a firm ‘no.’ pic.twitter.com/enaG8ttfqe— CIA (@CIA) March 8, 2018
Margaret did visit CIA HQ once, in 1984, when she was the guest of honor at a lunch w Director Casey.— CIA (@CIA) March 8, 2018
Over the years, several Agency officers also befriended her & would stop by to help w yard work & grocery shopping. On holidays, DDA Fitzwater would bring her holiday meals. pic.twitter.com/PfQcflKf0U
Margaret suffered a stroke & passed away at the age of 92 on November 7, 1986—over 25 years after CIA began operating out of Langley. pic.twitter.com/USscBkpaBt— CIA (@CIA) March 8, 2018
Over the next several years, while the numerous proposals for what to do with the property were debated & funding applied for, CIA Security Protective Officers (SPOs) slowly took over the main house & brought with them their K-9 unit.— CIA (@CIA) March 8, 2018
In 2003, the house underwent a complete renovation to become a state-of-the-art conference center. No rooms were added during the restoration & the foundation was untouched, although the porch was enclosed. pic.twitter.com/IpuOsjz1ae— CIA (@CIA) March 8, 2018
Margaret & Florence built their lives together in the house for over 50 years. Memories of the women & the house are forever ingrained in our history.— CIA (@CIA) March 8, 2018
Today CIA employees enjoy using the quiet & historic space for conferences & meetings.https://t.co/9GT98schmE pic.twitter.com/12cmYReX8W