Back To The Drawing Table? Women Have Been There All Along, Says The Book/Exhibit ‘Drawn To Purpose’

By Darcel Rockett
Chicago Tribune

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) A new book gives readers a glimpse of the female factor behind comic strips, political cartoons and art for magazines and newspapers.

CHICAGO

“Sisters are doin’ it for themselves …

Standin’ on their own two feet and ringin’ on their own bells.”

The Eurythmics and Aretha Franklin were on to something when that anthem came out in the 1980s, but then again, “women who become illustrators and cartoonists represent a special breed of artist and form a self-selected sisterhood”, that’s per the Library of Congress book “Drawn to Purpose: American Women Illustrators and Cartoonists.”

The book by Martha Kennedy, curator of popular and applied graphic art at the Library of Congress, gives readers a glimpse of the female factor behind comic strips, political cartoons and art for magazines and newspapers over a 150-year span, presenting a look at the trailblazing artists of the late 19th century into the 21st century.

“We have a critical mass of this kind of art here in this collection and it’s really worth celebrating,” Kennedy said. “We did intend it to be a resource for people that we hope will be excited about doing more research and more in-depth study of these amazing women artists in these fields.”

The book tracks their progress as well as the societal pressures that kept all but the more resilient women from advancing in the male-dominated field of illustrations.

By looking at the spectrum of artistic achievements of women, we learn of careers that we may not have known, such as that of Rose Cecil O’Neill and her Kewpies creations, and women who forged their own paths where there wasn’t one, such as Jackie Ormes, the first African-American cartoonist syndicated in black newspapers (including the Chicago Defender), and Barbara Brandon-Croft, the first black female cartoonist to have a syndicated strip in the mainstream media (“Where I’m Coming From”).

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