Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art: The Dinner Party: Heritage Floor: Mrs. Cellier

signature image

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

Mrs. Cellier
Flourished 1668–88, London

Elizabeth Cellier was a prominent Catholic midwife in seventeenth-century England. In 1679, after making charitable visits to Catholic prisoners, she was implicated in the "Meat-Tub Plot"—an alleged conspiracy against the future James II—and charged with treason. Dubbed the "Popish Midwife," Cellier was sent to prison and stood trial. Her account of the events, Malice Defeated, was published in 1680. The outspoken Cellier, who was later convicted of libel and imprisoned for allegations made in that book, continued her efforts to advance the field of midwifery. In A Scheme for the Foundation of a Royal Hospital, published in 1687, Cellier proposed forming London midwives into a corporation and using their fees to set up parish houses where any woman could give birth. The scheme also included plans for a hospital and a college for instruction in midwifery.

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