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7 Women Comic Illustrators You Should Know


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These women did the impossible, they had successful careers as professional comic illustrators during a time when women having careers at all was considered taboo.

Illustrations by @marthakelley

Nell Brinkley (1886-1944)

Martha Kelley

Sometimes called the “Queen of comics”, Brinkley developed the character of the “Brinkley Girl”, a young, independent, active, working woman who’s popularity rivaled that of the “Gibson girl”. Brinkley had a successful 40 year career illustrating for newspapers and magazines.

Read more about Nell Brinkley here.

Ethel Hays (1892-1989)

Martha Kelley

Hays created the 1 panel comic “Flapper Fanny Says”, that helped define the “flapper” style of the 1920s. Flapper Fanny was more refined than the Brinkley Girl, yet still adventurous and independent. Hays drew “Flapper Fanny Says” for 7 years, then moved on to a successful career as a children’s book illustrator.

Read more about Ethel Hays here.

Gladys Parker (1910-1966)

Martha Kelley

In 1930, illustration up-and-comer Gladys Parker took over drawing the comic “Flapper Fanny Says” from Hays. 9 years later she developed her own character, “Mopsy”, modeled after herself, which became very popular. She continued to draw “Mopsy” comics in newspapers and comic books for 26 years.

Read more about Gladys Parker here.

Dalia “Dale” Messick (1906-2005)

Martha Kelley

Messick began her career working for greeting card companies, but wanted to work in comic strips. Noticing the bias against women artist, she decided to go by the pseudonym “Dale” in order to be noticed by editors. Her major success was the comic strip “Brenda Starr” which she drew for 40 years and was widely popular with both men and women readers.

Read more about Dalia Messick here.

Jackie Ormes (1911-1985)

Martha Kelley

Ormes worked as a journalist before creating her comic strip “Torchy Brown” which made her the first African-American woman cartoonist to produce a syndicated comic strip. She also created the popular strip “Patty-Jo ‘n’ Ginger” which ran for 11 years and inspired her to create the Patty-Jo Dolls, the first American black doll representing a real child with an upscale wardrobe.

Read more about Jackie Ormes here.

Hilda Terry (1914-2006)

Martha Kelley

Terry created the character “Teena” which ran in newspapers for over 20 years. She was the 1st woman allowed to join the National Cartoonists Society and was a pioneer in early computer animation.

Read more about Hilda Terry here.

June Tarpé Mills (1915-1988)

Martha Kelley

Mills created and drew the action comic “Miss Fury” for 11 years. Having a background in fashion illustration, Mills drew Miss Fury wearing the latest fashion, setting her apart from the heroines drawn by men at the time. Mills went by her middle name Tarpé to conceal her gender in the beginning, but eventually Miss Fury became so popular that the public found out it was drawn by a woman. She even included her cat, Perri-Purr, as a character in the strip and during WWII Perri-Purr was used as the unofficial mascot of the Allied Troops.

Read more about June Tarpé Mills here.

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