Arrangements for the first restoration efforts in 1859 were halted by the nation’s political climate. From 1861 to 1865, the American Civil War raged near and around Mount Vernon. However, the estate remained open to visitors.
Since the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association took over the estate in 1860 it has seen decades of change while still remaining true to its mission to educate people about the life and legacies of George Washington.
The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association was the first national historic preservation organization and is the oldest women's patriotic society in the United States. They bought Mount Vernon from George Washington's decedent, John Augustine Washington III.
Following the Civil War which devastated most of northern Virginia, the recently formed Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, protector of George Washington's historic home, relied on the sale of photographs of Mount Vernon to visitors. This created an important collection of 19th-century views of Washington's home at Mount Vernon.Learn More
The MVLA was at the forefront of an explosion of all-female organizations in the 19th century. Women’s groups promoting issues such as abolition, temperance, child welfare, and historic preservation gave members an intellectual outlet, leadership experience, and increasingly public roles in society. Yet these women lacked one powerful tool—the right to vote.
Sarah Johnson returned to Mount Vernon to work for the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association. During her long employment with the MVLA, she earned the high respect of many Vice Regents and fellow employees. Mary Carver Leiter, Vice Regent of Illinois (1885–1913), purchased the wedding dress for Johnson’s marriage to William Robinson in 1888.