Today's Hours
Museum: 10:00 AM - 7:00 PM
Gardens: 7:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Today's Hours
Museum: 10:00 AM - 7:00 PM
Gardens: 7:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Caroline
Caroline, front
Caroline, side
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2
Caroline has an Armand Marseille bisque head, brown hair and brown eyes. She
wears an ivory satin evening gown adapted from an original gown of the actual
period. The gown features a cream lace and moire' taffeta tiered panel front with
hand-embroidery and a cream-colored lace jabot. The bunched up folds at the
side of the skirt were another replay of the polonaise style, but also reflected
"aesthetic dress", a looser style of apparel championed by the Pre-Raphaelites
among others. She wears the pointed "v" bodice typical of the period and the
elaborate trim, swags, and layers are common contemporary elaborations as
well. To complete her outfit, she wears lace stockings and black satin slippers.
During this period, women needed a variety of gowns for a variety of occasions.
According to etiquette books, women would need at the very least, a walking
dress, a country dress, a carriage or visiting dress, an ordinary evening dress, a
dinner dress, and a ball dress - hence, the need for a bride's trousseau. This is
an evening gown, which Caroline would have worn to the theatre or to a soiree at
the home of members of the upper class. There are a few anomalies here: according
to the Gray/Blumenstiel notes, she should also have black lacings, a jet and flower
hair ornament, and rose point lace gloves, none of which I can see in the photograph
of the doll.



Caroline Thomas Merrick (1825 - 1908)



Caroline Thomas was born to a prominent family in East Feliciana Parish; her
father was a veteran of the Battle of New Orleans and later became one of the
first trustee of what eventually became Centenary College. He settled at Cottage
Hall Plantation near Jackson, Louisiana where he and his wife raised five
children. Thomas had an old-fashioned view of women, once forbidding Caroline
and a female cousin from going out for a ride because it was improper for two
ladies to go out alone. Merrick later declared, "I early ascertained that girls
had a sphere wherein they were expected to remain and that the despotic hand of
some man was continually lifted to keep them revolving in a certain prescribed
and very restricted orbit." Perhaps to escape her stern father, at the age of
only fifteen, Caroline married the thirty'seven year old Judge Edwin T. Merrick,
which necessitated her move to New Orleans when her husband was appointed the
chief justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court. During that period, she gave birth
to four children.



It took the Civil War to begin to engage Caroline politically. The war
separated her family, and she found herself having to manage the plantation
alone, making dangerous journeys down the river for supplies and supplying
nursing care for soldiers from both sides. As a result, she began aware of her
own strength and resourcefulness, later calling that period "the happiest epoch
of her life." During the late 1870s she began to involve herself in civic
activities, including serving on the board for St. Anna's Asylum in New Orleans,
an institute for poor women and children run entirely by women. In 1878 a German
woman inmate revealed that she had a thousand dollars and on her deathbed wrote
a will giving the money to the Asylum that had sheltered her. When the will was
probated, it was found to not be "worth the paper it is written" on because it
was witnessed by "incapables", among which were women, insane, idiots, and
felons.



In response to this injustice, Caroline and Elizabeth Lyle Saxon drew up a
petition and presented it to the state constitutional convention meeting in New
Orleans in 1879. They had obtained more than 400 signatures. Caroline was also
invited to give a speech to the full convention which won acclaim and generated
a great deal of publicity.



Nonetheless, the convention granted them only a minor concession, providing
women 21 years or older eligibility for office of control and management on
school boards. In spite of the setback, or even because of it, the convention
became the start of further women's movement activities involving suffrage,
social reform, and improved child labor laws. Mrs. Merrick also became involved
in temperance work, arranging for nationally known temperance leader Frances
Willard to speak in New Orleans. Merrick served as president of the local
W.C.T.U. for ten years and served as president of the National W.C.T.U. in 1882.
That same year, she organized the Portia Club, which was devoted to extending
the legal rights of women and children. Today, along with Elizabeth Lyle Saxon
and Susan B. Anthony, she is recognized as one of the most important leaders of
the women's suffrage movement.