December 2017 Newsletter


Erin Directors Photo

Dear Friends,

Thanks to your encouragement and support, 2017 was another year of tremendous accomplishments at President Lincoln’s Cottage. We were recognized as one of Washington, DC’s 50 “Great Places to Work” and “Best Museum Off the Mall.” We completed a new strategic plan — our first as an independent organization. We concluded a groundbreaking, eighteen-month study on the depth of impact of the visitor experience at the Cottage, working with experts in architecture and neuroscience. We served thousands of students, tens of thousands of visitors from around the world, collaborated with numerous nonprofits, businesses, and government entities, and a variety of individuals in the arts and business. We published new books on Abraham and Mary Lincoln. Two new people joined our team, increasing our capacity to serve you. And our annual Lincoln Ideas Forum continued the tradition of providing ground breaking scholarship on issues past and present.

This work is rooted in both the past and the present, with an eye ever toward the future. In a speech Lincoln gave on November 10, 1864, he said, “Human nature will not change. In any future great national trial, compared with the men of this, we shall have as weak and as strong, as silly and as wise, as bad and as good. Let us, therefore, study the incidents of this, as philosophy to learn wisdom from, and none of them as wrongs to be revenged.” Though the incidents of the Civil have been studied again and again, often the facts have been obscured, misinterpreted, or distorted to suit a variety of purposes. Topics of controversy abound such as what spurred secession, what caused the war, and the horrors of slavery. At the Cottage, we rely on the historical truth to show the true Lincoln, and not to gloss over the imperfections of the past.

Perhaps the most startling example of speaking truth to power in 2017 was the #MeToo movement. As it gained momentum in recent months, the campaign to bring awareness to sexual assault was a stark reminder that “human nature will not change,” and that extreme imbalances of power create situations ripe for abuse. In our continued efforts to shine a light on the darkest parts of our past — so that we can learn from it and work to prevent it from happening again — this month’s feature article looks at the horrific abuse suffered by many enslaved women. These women lived in a system designed to keep them down, to deny recourse, to punish them for speaking up and fighting back. Their stories must be told.

Lincoln once said the “power of hope upon human exertion, and happiness, is wonderful.” We must tell the truth about the past if we want to be hopeful about the future.

Wishing you peace, hope, and happiness in the new year,


The Loathsome Den: Sexual Assault on the Plantation, #MeToo of the 19th century

Slave Auction at Richmond, Virginia (1856, Library of Congress)

Privately coming forward as a survivor of any sexual or physical abuse is hard enough. To publicly name the abuser is often a fraught path. Legal prosecution of the offender is not certain; economic and/or physical retaliation a possibility; and public scrutiny, if not shame, a certainty. Nonetheless, victims in the 19th century and now still come forward. Indeed, the last year has been dominated by the revelations of women (and some men) who have been sexually abused. Their whirlwind of resistance coalesced online via the #MeToo movement and Time named “Silence Breakers” as its Person of the Year. Over 150 years ago, a similar tempest arose as abolitionists tried to awaken the American conscience on slavery and sexual assault.

Read the rest this article by Museum Program Associate Curtis Harris here.


With stark political divisions worldwide and continued debate about the meaning and impact of the Civil War, this past year President Lincoln’s Cottage’s mission has been more relevant than ever. Through many channels, including educating students, we hope to reveal the true Lincoln and continue the fight for freedom.

Please consider making a gift this holiday season to support our award-winning education programs.



CSI staff repairing picnic tables behind the VEC

Last week, CSI a destination management company in Washington, DC generously donated funds and their time to complete various preservation tasks around the Cottage grounds. CSI is a longtime partner of President Lincoln’s Cottage, and has hosted a number of events at the Cottage, including other giveback days with their corporate clients.

President Lincoln’s Cottage Senior Preservationist Jeff Larry tasked them with various projects including building rocking chairs (which now live in the bandstand), cleaning lattice and cobblestones, planting, fixing picnic tables, and more. For a complete list of tasks, photos from the day, and ways for you or your team to sign up for a day of service, click here.

STAFF SPOTLIGHT: Welcome New Staff, Joan and Lacey

Joan Cummins, Senior Museum Program Associate (left) and Lacey Shaw, Senior Museum Store Associate hanging out on the veranda in the unusually warm December weather

We’re so pleased to welcome two new full-time staff members to our ever-growing team! Both Joan Cummins, Senior Museum Program Associate, and Lacey Shaw, Senior Museum Store Associate, are filling two new positions. External Communications Coordinator Jenny Phillips sat down with them in their office right off the Museum Store — pop in and say ‘hi!’– to chat about their new roles, Lincoln, and tarot cards. It ended in a competition to see who has traveled to the most countries. Spoiler: with one parent in the State Department, and one as a pilot, both have an impressive list. Read on to get to know Lacey and Joan.

TEAM LINCOLN: Ladies Tea at the Armed Forces Retirement Home


On Friday, December 1st, the Armed Forces Retirement Home (AFRH), held their annual Ladies Tea Program. Each year President Lincoln’s Cottage partners with AFRH to provide party games; this year the theme was Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol.” The reason it’s so special is because it’s the only program dedicated to honor and celebrate only the women at AFRH. While AFRH has hundreds of residents, only 41 are female—making them just 11{ec117f0059f8cde3a5e4f5b3c1b486659702d407977a37ffc575d2c0a9b4a69f} of the population. (Did you know the Home didn’t even admit women until 1955? You can read more about the first woman, Regina C. Jones, admitted here.) The program, which started in 2003, has taken many shapes and forms, but one thing is the same: it’s an afternoon thanking the women for their service, and making them feel special.

An Ethically Sourced Holiday: SOS Summit Alum Creates the SOS Holiday Shopping Catalogue

Laurel (center) at the SOS International Summit in June 2017

Laurel Shearer attended the Students Opposing Slavery International Summit this past June, and in the past six months, she’s been busy. A sophomore at Grace Prep High School, located in Centre County, Pennsylvania, Laurel started her own chapter of Students Opposing Slavery. During the week-long Summit Laurel crafted and received feedback about her human trafficking awareness campaign: curating a holiday shopping guide of ethically sourced vendors. This winter, she published it. Click here for Laurel’s SOS Holiday Shopping Catalogue, so you can “give the gift of freedom this holiday season.”

MUSEUM STORE UPDATE: A Short Biography of Mary and Abraham Lincoln

New to the Museum Store: Two pocket-sized biographies of Abraham and Mary Lincoln (perfect for stockings!) written by Executive Director and CEO, Erin Carlson Mast. Shop for them in person (pop into our Museum Store located in the Robert H. Smith Visitor Education Center) any time 9:30am-4:30pm each day (we open at 10:30am on Sundays) or online.

JUST FOR FUN: Fix Yourself Up a Mary Hot Toddy

Oh, the weather outside is frightful! Warm up this December with a Mary Hot Toddy, in honor of Mary Lincoln’s 199th birthday (December 13). Bonus if you pair it with A Short Biography of Mary Lincoln. 



Support our educational programs, preservation efforts and public events by making a contribution to President Lincoln’s Cottage. Donate online today.


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