A Woman to Know: Angela Calomiris

She did it for the money ... the Red Scare was a business. — Lisa E. Davis

(image via Library of Congress)


In the 1940s, Angela Calomiris moved to the legendary Greenwich Village, a haven for LGBTQ New Yorkers. Angela joined the New York Photo League and found a circle of welcoming artists who accepted her as an out lesbian. But behind the scenes, Angela was doing more than honing her craft with the NYPL — she was working as an FBI informant, seeking information about members' potential ties to the Communist Party.

In the midst of the Red Scare, Angela took the stand, acting as a main witness in the 1949 Smith Act Trial. She betrayed her photography mentors and Village neighbors, testifying that they all acted as agents of the Community Party. She claimed the New York Photo League was a front for illegal activity, and after the trial, the group would never repair its reputation. Or its membership — ultimately, the trial indicted 11 Community Party members with conspiracy.

Angela tried to capitalize on her involvement, even appearing on Eleanor Roosevelt's radio show and writing a book of her time as an informant.

But the fame didn't last. The LGBTQ community back in Greenwich Village regarded her as an outcast, and when she asked the FBI for help finding a job, even J. Edgar Hoover told colleagues he was "pretty well disgusted with this woman."

Before she died in 1995, Angela tried to build a new life in Provincetown, Massachusetts. She bought a row of beach houses, naming the biggest one "Angel's Landing."

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