George Washington Prize Nominees Announced


Created by Washington College, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and George Washington’s Mount Vernon, the $50,000 George Washington Prize is one of the nation’s largest and most notable literary awards.

the Washington Prize medal

Four books published in 2022 by the nation’s most prominent historians were recently named finalists for the George Washington Prize. The annual award recognizes the past year’s best works on the nation’s founding era, especially those that have the potential to advance a broad public understanding of early American history. 

“Each of these four books sheds new light on an extraordinary American from the Revolutionary era,” said Adam Goodheart, director of Washington College’s Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience. “Three of these figures became famous names, while the fourth has been largely—and undeservedly—forgotten. Together, the nominees prove that the saga of our country’s founding still has the potential to surprise and enlighten us.” 

The 2023 George Washington Prize finalists are (in alphabetical order): 

  • Mary Sarah Bilder, Female Genius: Eliza Harriot and George Washington at the Dawn of the Constitution  
  • Fred Kaplan, His Masterly Pen: A Biography of Jefferson the Writer  
  • Stacy Schiff, The Revolutionary: Samuel Adams  
  • Maurizio Valsania, First among Men: George Washington and the Myth of American Masculinity  

In a new event, this year’s George Washington Prize nominees will convene on one stage for a panel discussion of their work on Thursday, August 24, 2023, at 7 p.m. EDT at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. The event will be free and open to the public. The nominees will be available to sign books following the event. Register on Mount Vernon’s website to attend. 

Patrick Spero, Ph.D., executive director of the George Washington Presidential Library at Mount Vernon, noted that the nominees represented another first in the history of the Prize.  

“For the first time, the finalists for the Washington Prize are all biographies,” Spero said. “It is an enriching group that includes original takes on well-known figures and works that bring individuals who have been overlooked for too long to life. Each book contains important lessons from the past that resonate today; perhaps most important of all is the power of individuals to shape their world.” 

As has happened every year since the prize was created in 2005, an independent jury evaluated between 50 and 100 books published in the past year that explore the history of the American Founding era. The four books named finalists for the prize are outstanding examples of how rich and robust this field of study has become.  

The George Washington Prize winner will be announced in New York City on September 21, 2023. 

James Basker, president of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, notes, "It is heartening to see such fine writing about the Founding Era, on a wonderfully expansive range of topics. These books all make important contributions, and above all, each of them is beautifully written. Readers are in for a treat with all four of these finalists for the Washington Prize!" 

More information about the George Washington Prize is available on the Starr Center’s webpage.