Threads Through Time-Rose O’Neill

Click on thumbnails to enlarge images.

Rose O’Neill
Together for Home and Family, 1917
Lithographic poster reproduction
On loan from the Bonniebrook Historical Society, Walnut Shade, MO

 

Prices are Soaring, around 1917
India ink on paper
On loan from the Bonniebrook Historical Society, Walnut Shade, MO

 

Photograph of Rose O’Neill at a Suffrage Rally, 1917
On loan from the Bonniebrook Historical Society, Walnut Shade, MO

 

Spirit of ’76around 1917
Vintage postcard
On loan from a private collection

 

Kewpie Doll, 1909
Bisque
Made by J.D. Kestner, Germany, on loan from a private collection

Rose O’Neill (1874-1944) was an illustrator, artist, writer and suffragette. She is best known, however, as the creator of the Kewpie doll. She was a self-taught artist, and won a drawing competition for the Omaha Herald at the age of 13. In 1893, at the age of 19, she moved to New York City and quickly became a successful illustrator. She worked for a variety of publications, and was the first woman hired on staff for the popular humor magazine, Puck.

In 1907, she began drawing a group of cherubic, cheerful characters called The Kewpies. They made their debut in a comic strip for the Ladies Home Journal in 1909, and became instantly popular. The manufacturing of the first Kewpie dolls three years later furthered the phenomenon. They were a huge success and were one of the first mass-marketed toys in America. The sale of the dolls made O’Neill a millionaire.

O’Neill was also very active in the Women’s Suffrage movement. In addition to marching and attending rallies with her sister Callista, she illustrated posters, postcards, and political cartoons supporting the movement. Some featured her beloved Kewpies with the rally cry of  “Votes for Our Mothers”. The drawing Prices are Soaring encouraged women to be frugal shoppers.