Lilly Martin Spencer, The Home of the Red, White, and Blue

How women contributed to the repairing a country that had been torn apart.

Lilly Martin Spencer, The Home of the Red, White, and Blue, c. 1867–68, oil on canvas, 24 x 30 inches (Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Art Acquisition Endowment Fund, 2007.1). Speakers: Taylor L. Poulin and Dr. Beth Harris

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Spencer, Home

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Key points

  • During the Civil War, women entered the workforce and contributed to the war effort. In the difficult years of the Reconstruction, their role was less clear, but many felt a patriotic duty to help restore the union. Along with freed African-Americans, an influx of immigration, and the vast number of young men injured in the war, this was a period of redefining the American workforce.
  • Lilly Martin Spencer’s The Home of the Red, White, and Blue uses symbolism to establish the American family as essential to the restoration of the American union. She also highlights the role of women and immigrants as part of that future.
  • Although, as a woman, she was barred from attending art school, Lilly Martin Spencer blended elements of academic art with her contemporary and familiar subject. The pyramidal composition directs the viewer to the central figures and suggests stability while her use of atmospheric perspective creates a sense of depth.

Go deeper

This painting at the Terra Foundation for American Art’s Conversations with the Collection

Teaching resources about women in the Civil War from the Library of Congress

Explore primary sources about women and their roles in the Civil War

Consult lesson plans about women’s roles in the Reconstruction era

Lilly Martin Spencer at Google Arts and Culture

Explore a teaching guide to another Spencer painting that contains a biography and historical context for women of her time

Learn more about immigration in the years following the Civil War

Learn more about the Reconstruction period

More to think about

Although The Home of the Red, White, and Blue includes a range of figures important to the restoration of the United States following the Civil War, not all Americans are represented in the painting. Who is missing, and why do you think that might be?

Explore the diverse history of the United States through its art. Seeing America is funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art and the Alice L. Walton Foundation.