Pauline Cushman, Actress and Union Spy

Date:
2010
Medium:
Acrylic on wood
Dimensions:
12 ¼ x 6 ¼ inches
Credit Line:
Collection of Lysiane Luong Grooms and the artist

Women were critical to the war effort and hundreds were even spies. Red Grooms’s portrait of Pauline Cushman reveals him as a close observer of humanity—he focuses our attention to her face, posture, and hand gestures. Cushman was a New York actress touring the South when presented with an opportunity to ingratiate herself with Confederate officers. It may have helped her “cover,” or pretense, that she was born in New Orleans. Eventually, Cushman was captured with battle plans in her shoe, but saved when Union troops invaded the area. Years later, veterans of the Grand Army of the Republic buried her with military honors.