The Dinner Party rests upon the Heritage Floor, which is an equilateral triangle forty-eight feet on each side. This monumental floor is comprised of 2,300 hand-cast porcelain tiles and provides both a structural and metaphorical support for The Dinner Party table. Inscribed in gold luster are the names of 999 mythical and historical women of achievement, who were selected to contextualize the 39 women represented in the place settings and to convey “how many women had struggled into prominence or been able to make their ideas known—sometimes in the face of overwhelming obstacles—only (like the women on the table) to have their hard-earned achievements marginalized or erased” (Chicago, The Dinner Party, 10).
Each tile was hand-cast and hand-sanded at the China Boutique outside of Los Angeles. The tiles were repeatedly fired with rainbow luster as well as with the gold luster used for the names. The process of creating the Heritage Floor took over two years. Potential names were researched by over twenty members of The Dinner Party‘s research team, headed by Diane Gelon and Ann Isolde. Out of three thousand names compiled, 999 were selected, their inclusion decided on by three criteria: did the woman make a worthwhile contribution to society; had she attempted to improve conditions for women; did her life/work exemplify a significant aspect of women’s history or provide a role model for a more egalitarian society? The chosen Heritage Floor names correlate to each of the 39 place settings by commonality of experience, historic contribution, time period, and/or geography.
The Heritage Floor serves as a visual representation of the vast contributions women have made to every aspect of history. Names of goddesses, mythological figures, religious figures, government leaders, entrepreneurs, writers, artists, musicians, actors, dancers, filmmakers, architects, scholars, historians, educators, military figures, athletes, physicians, scientists, explorers, philanthropists, activists, and suffragettes, primarily from western civilization, from prehistory to the 20th century, can be found on The Dinner Party‘s Heritage Floor.