Congressional Cemetery

The Congressional Cemetery: Forgotten and Found

View of the Congressional Cemetery in the 1930s

In the 1970s, the Congressional Cemetery was in trouble. After years of neglect, it looked abandoned: broken headstones littered the ground, family vaults caved in, and the grass was waist high. Fifty years later, the cemetery has undergone a stunning transformation. As well as being an active burial ground, it serves as a community garden, urban wildlife sanctuary, place of remembrance, and historic site. Volunteers, many from the local Capitol Hill neighborhoods, work tirelessly to keep up the grounds and reverse the damage of decades past. Because, as it turns out, the Congressional Cemetery has always been a people’s effort. Despite its official-sounding name, and despite its importance to national history, its story is much more local.

To Duck the Scold: One of Anne Royall's Washington Incidents

Anne Royall's headstone in the Congressional Cemetery

When Anne Newport Royall went to court in 1829 for being a “public nuisance, a common brawler and a common scold,” there were mixed feelings. Some celebrated the news that she was finally getting what she deserved, like the Aurora & Pennsylvania Gazette, which said, “All decent people will be happy to hear that the imprudent virago, Anne Royall, is at last in a fair way to meet her deserts.” (A virago, for reference, is a loud overbearing woman. This wouldn’t be the last time she’d be chastised for unladylike behavior.) Others likened her trial to the persecution of Galileo by the Catholic Church, claiming that she will never surrender.