Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art: The Dinner Party: Heritage Floor: Anne Ella Carroll

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Judy Chicago (American, b. 1939). The Dinner Party (Heritage Floor; detail), 1974–79. Porcelain with rainbow and gold luster, 48 x 48 x 48 ft. (14.6 x 14.6 x 14.6 m). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Foundation, 2002.10. © Judy Chicago. Photograph by Jook Leung Photography

Anne Ella Carroll
b. 1815, Pokomoke City, Maryland; d. 1894, Washington, D.C.

Descendant of a distinguished Maryland family and daughter of a state governor, Carroll entered the political arena in the 1850s as a propagandist for the anti-immigrant Know Nothing party. Her particular bĂȘte noir was Catholicism, which, she argued, was polluting America via Irish immigrants. During the federal election campaign of 1856, she published her most enduring Know Nothing statement, The Great American Battle, or, The Contest Between Christianity and Political Romanism. During the Civil War, she switched her allegiance, and talents as a pamphleteer, to the Republican party, supporting many of Lincoln's policies. She was an ardent Unionist and used her considerable intellectual skills to defend Union integrity against southern secession. It is a mistake, however, to label her an abolitionist. Carroll was from a slave-owning family and although she "disliked" slavery, she was not in favor of wholesale emancipation; she recommended colonization of blacks and condemned the Emancipation Proclamation. A relentless self-promoter, she claimed authorship of the military strategy that broke the Confederacy, calling herself "Lincoln's secret weapon." Years after the war, she unsuccessfully petitioned Congress for recognition of—and payment for—her alleged role. Well into the twentieth century, Carroll was hailed as a feminist heroine whose contributions were denied because of her sex. Recent feminist scholarship has thoroughly discredited her tale.

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