Rose O’Neill is regarded as the first woman cartoonist (1874-1944). Self taught, and from a poor family, her parents ensured she was never without paper to draw on, and her father in particular was keen to support her love of books and art as best he could. In 1888, at the age of 13, Rose won an art contest held in the local paper (the Omaha World Herald) and the judges were so doubtful that her entry, “Temptation Leading to an Abyss”, could have been drawn by a 13 year old, that they summoned her to prove her skills in person. Proving her skills, from then on Rose was able to supplement the family income with regular work in the periodicals. * * *
In 1934 Kewpie comics were published, full pages in today’s panel format. The twice divorced and bohemian Rose was passionately involved in the Suffrage movement – as were the Kewpies (see top illustration). Rose was known as the “Queen of Bohemian Society” due to her outspoken views on women’s rights, the considerable wealth that her work had amassed, and her widely admired beauty.
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I never knew about this connection between the creator of the Kewpie doll and woman suffrage. Maureen Finnegan’s Selling Suffrage: Consumer Culture and Votes for Women (Columbia University Press, 1999) will jump to the top of my reading list!