The Princess of Dew

Dorothy Turnbull was a member of the Mardi Gras court for the Bards of Bohemia crewe.

We had the sunshine, you see, we had the dawn and the night. Everybody is in costume.  You’re, as a member, you get so many what’s called call outs. Which means you can invite ladies to sit in a reserved place. And during the ball time when people are dancing the ushers come and call you out by name and escort you to the master on the floor. He gives you one of these souvenirs that represents the theme of the ball.  You dance around with him.  He brings you back to an usher and the usher seats you again and he calls another person. So it’s call outs.It’s simply social.  But that was just part of my father’s interest, and mother. Mostly my father. Because the men did all the work. The women enjoyed what they were doing, of course!  (laughs).

This photograph comes from the collection of Dorothy Turnbull Stewart.

The Mardi Gras Theme

Dorothy Turnbull’s father was a member of one of the crewes that planned New Orleans’ annual Mardi Gras celebrations. She says in the 1940s, it wasn’t like it is now.

It’s a social business.  And they planned each year, they have meetings  and socials each year planning a carnival ball. They have to have a theme.   My father was one of the crewe. They go down and they have it at the great auditorium – public auditorium.  I don’t know what they’re doing today.  It looks like they’re on the street drinking constantly (laughs), but those aren’t the crews, you see.  But they plan a theme, and the theme that went along with this one, my father decided I should be in the court.

This is a photograph from the carnival ball in 1940, when Dorothy was a member of the crewe court. It comes from the collection of Dorothy Turnbull Stewart.

Mardi Gras Crewes

Because Dorothy Turnbull was from New Orleans, her family was involved in the pre-Lenten tradition of Mardi Gras. Her father belonged to one of the city’s crewes.

I never was a debutante. They have certain of the crewes, the big old celebration, but certain of them are for the debutantes, the elite of the elite. They pay more, of course, they have the bigger parades. They have all of the atmosphere.

This is a photograph of one of the Mardi Gras celebrations Dorothy participated in, c. 1940. It comes from the collection of Dorothy Turnbull Stewart.