Exhibit explores Washington, medicine

As a head of household, plantation owner, businessman, Revolutionary War general and president, George Washington had his hands full. Alongside the demands of political life and military leadership, however, he focused considerable attention on the health and safety of his family, troops, staff and slaves.

A traveling exhibit, Every Necessary Care and Attention: George Washington and Medicine, is coming to the Fond du Lac Public Library from December 21 through January 31.

The exhibit explores the story of Washington’s own health and examines the ways he sought to guard the health and wellness of those under his care. He lived in a time when medicine was transitioning from a traditional healer craft to a profession.

Like others at the Mount Vernon plantation, George and Martha Washington suffered from seasonal malaria and lung problems. Later in life, they dealt with rheumatism, hearing loss and failing eyesight.

The exhibit explores Washington’s care of the Continental Army, where as commander in chief he instituted a controversial program of inoculation for smallpox. Later, he turned his attention to his enslaved workers, who numbered more than 300 at the time of his death, writing that they be given “every necessary care and attention” when unwell.

The traveling exhibit was developed and produced by the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health and George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate, Museum & Gardens. The exhibit’s Fond du Lac visit is sponsored by the library and Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association.

 

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