This year has been unprecedented in our long history. For more than 160 years, the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association has welcomed guests to George Washington’s home, and for the first time, we closed to guests for four months to help stop a fast-spreading contagion.
While this moment is unique, Mount Vernon has survived civil war, financial panics, two world wars, the Great Depression, and even pandemics. Inspired by the life and achievements of George Washington, we will continue to serve our crucial mission for generations to come. In the face of terrible odds and long hardship, the general, founding father, president, and citizen persevered to help launch an experiment in democracy that has endured for more than 200 years. We, too, will persevere.
As I write this, the country faces three major challenges that will mark 2020 for years to come as a historic time for all Americans. The COVID-19 pandemic—the worst since the 1918 flu circled the globe—has brought sickness and loss to so many in this country and around the world and continues to mark the day-to-day experience of every one of us. The resultant economic impact threatens disruption on a scale not seen for decades,and the country grapples with inequalities in our society following the murder of George Floyd.
I am proud to say that the staff of Mount Vernon has responded with resilience and innovation. Within days of our March 14 closure to the public, we were regularly livestreaming educational programs for all ages. In the more than three months we were closed, we produced 96 livestreams watched by 646,000 people; we welcomed 304,939 visitors to the Virtual Tour; 1,942,227 million people visited 4,142,092 pages on our website. Our in-person community outreach matched our digital outreach: We provided take-away meals through our great food service, and with donor support, provided care packages for local first responders.
We reopened on June 21 to a new environment, with new social distancing, sanitation, and disease-mitigation protocols. We innovated ways to provide the excellent learning experience for which we have always been known; we have continued the frenetic pace of online content production; and we even managed to celebrate Independence Day with a bang.
Perhaps most importantly, our donors from all over the nation have and continue to generously step forward to ensure that we can hold fast through this extended crisis of closure and decreased visitation. Thank you for your support; we could not do what we do without you.
We know we can transcend these trying times because we have done so before. I invite you to dive into this exceptional issue of the magazine. Explore the grit and grace that have kept the flag flying at George Washington’s home through wars, economic downturns, and other hardships. Look for the parallels and lessons of 1793, when an epidemic raged through Philadelphia. And read about the ways George Washington himself handled the many crises that befell him and a young nation in an original piece by historian and public commentator John Avlon.
Mount Vernon’s cultural value today is as important as ever. It is a historical icon, which commemorates George Washington’s achievements and legacy. But it is also a space to explore the realities of 18th-century slavery and inform the challenges our nation faces today and the crises we will face tomorrow. We have an educational power to bring Americans together to rally around our shared history, and inspire visitors with the revolutionary story of our national founding. At a time of incivility in discourse, we advocate humility; at a time of confusion, we emphasize enlightenment; and of division, we pursue unity. Mount Vernon’s strength draws from your support, continuing scholarship about the father of the country, and the MVLA’s own pioneering story.
President & CEO
Mount Vernon responds to the pandemic, valuable documents are donated, final presidential papers are
published, and an ornament is acquired. Read
During the pandemic closure, many of the staff
worked from home, including Mount Vernon’s
on-estate emergency response team. Good thing
the estate was their home. Read
Aerospace and defense technology company
Lockheed Martin continues its longtime support
of the annual Patriot Run. Read
What’s inside a cracked medicine jar found in the
South Grove Midden on the estate grounds? Read
As classrooms all over the country turned virtual,
Mount Vernon’s K12 and Youth Learning team ramped
up its efforts and came through for students, parents,
and teachers. Read
Mark Edward Lender probes the personality traits of
George Washington that calmed an army, won a war,
and led a people. Read
A glass plate negative from 1858 reveals a wealth of details, including a mysterious person in the window. Read
COVID-19 is just one of the many historical crises the Ladies of Mount Vernon have faced with grit and grace.
In 1793, a yellow fever epidemic hit the city hard, and sent George Washington and the federal government packing.
How President Washington confronted crises and set the template for presidential leadership.