The Louisiana State Museum, in partnership with the Krewes of Iris, Muses and Nyx, presents Iris and the Goddesses of Carnival, an exhibition commemorating the centennial of Iris and exploring the evolution of women’s krewes in New Orleans from the 1890s to the present. This exhibition features rare artifacts from the museum’s vast collection as well as from various lenders, including the earliest-known existing Iris queen’s dress, worn in 1941 by Irma Cazenave, wife of Count Arnaud Cazenave, on loan from Arnaud’s restaurant.
Named after the Greek goddess of the rainbow, the Krewe of Iris is the oldest women’s carnival organization in New Orleans. At the time of its 1917 founding, men’s groups ruled Mardi Gras festivities, sponsoring all of the parades and most of the balls. But just as women campaigned for the vote and sought expanded roles in public life, they also carved out new social spaces. Iris built upon two decades of women’s efforts to create carnival organizations. Over the course of the next century, more women’s krewes joined the fun, from numerous societies in the early 1900s to 21st century parading clubs, such as Muses, Nyx and Femme Fatale.