Maternal Images in the Age of the Girl/
Maternal Images in the Age of the Girl:
The Work of Jessie Willcox Smith and Other Women Artists
in Early-Twentieth-Century Magazine Illustration
Carolyn L. Kitch
4001 Schoolhouse Lane
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17109
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A paper presented to the History Division
of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass
for the 79th Annual Conference in Anaheim, Calif., August 1996
Maternal Images in the Age of the Girl:
The Work of Jessie Willcox Smith and Other Women Artists
in Early-Twentieth-Century Magazine Illustration
The use of visual images as historical documents offers media
historians two ways of thinking about the past. We may study images for clues
to values held by media practioners and their audiences in various eras. We may
also ask why certain images have been preserved over time and now serve as
frames for our modern-day versions of these periods. This paper examines two
very different visual depictions of American womanhood in magazines during "the
golden age of illustration," roughly the first third of the twentieth century.
One of those visions dominates our popular memory of the period.
Most Americans "remember" the early twentieth century in terms of the Gibson
Girl and the flapper, illustrators' creations that we have come to use as
symbols of an era of dramatic change for women. Yet women's status in American
society--their social roles and their political status, despite the achievement
of suffrage in 1920--did not undergo major and lasting change during this
period. Moreover, millions of American women continued to shape their
self-images and live their lives in terms of ideals rooted in domesticity and
motherhood--the other vision of womanhood in magazine illustrations.
The creators of these contrasting images were divided not only by
viewpoint, but also by gender. The male illustrators of the day (names we still
remember, such as Charles Dana Gibson, Howard Chandler Christy, and John Held,
Jr.) drew "girls"; the female illustrators of the day (names we rarely remember)
drew mothers--women. This paper argues that women illustrators' representations
of domesticity, of women as mature and responsible rather than young and
carefree, was an assertion of female dignity and agency in an era of popular
culture that often trivialized female identities and concerns.
The following discussion surveys the work of both men and women
illustrators of the day, with particular attention to the most successful and
prolific of the women, Jessie Willcox Smith. Smith's work is representative of
that of her female peers and of the domestic ideal in magazine illustration; it
also echoes the maternal rhetoric of the women social reformers of the
Progressive era. Her own life resembled the circumstances of other successful
women of her day, as well, in that she had a network of women companions who did
similar work and who gave her the personal and professional support she needed
to have a major career.
Smith is best known for her drawings of mothers and children,
especially children. She herself never had children, she lived her entire adult
life with other unmarried women, and her artistic identity was formed within a
group of women illustrators who competed aggressively for work and achieved
success comparable with men. Her work brought her national fame and wealth (her
friends jokingly called her "The Mint"). Yet her surroundings were
conservative--she lived among Philadelphia's social elite, whose children she
painted and whose patronage she courted--and she professed domestic ideology.
She called marriage and motherhood "the ideal life for a woman" and described
her career as "one long joyous road along which troop delightful children."
This paper employs two methodological tools, textual analysis and
biography, to rethink modern assumptions about media culture and women's status
in the early twentieth century. In its emphasis on women's history, the paper
considers women not only as objects and consumers of media culture, but also as
some of its producers. It echoes the assertion of feminist art critic Janet
Wolff that art is a social product and that historical conditions affect "who
becomes an artist [and] how they become an artist," as well as what they
Women in the Golden Age of Illustration
During the late nineteenth century in America, art historian
Catherine Stryker explains, "women were accepted in illustration because drawing
and painting were supposedly a natural part of their refined and sympathetic
personalities." Between 1870 and 1890, the number of professional women
artists in America rose from about 400 to nearly 11,000, roughly half the total
number of artists in the country. In fact, by the turn of the century, some
critics felt that women's presence in the profession of illustration, combined
with the predominantly female readership of magazines, was "feminizing" the
field. Wrote one newspaper art reviewer in 1906, "It is quite impossible to
take up any of the leading magazines or periodicals without finding
illustrations done by one or more women artists . . . [with] names familiar to
Those women illustrators, along with their male peers, had
increasing opportunities for periodical work. In the late 1890s, advances in
printing technology made it possible for magazines to reproduce color
illustrations clearly and relatively inexpensively. At the same time, the
subsidy of national advertising reduced the cost of producing magazines, making
them widely affordable (during the early 1900s, most general-interest magazines
sold for about 10 cents). Audiences were growing rapidly, and some magazines
had readerships exceeding one million; between 1905 and 1928, total U. S.
magazine circulation doubled, from 17 million to 34 million. The twin
forces of immigration and urbanization, both of which peaked during the first
two decades of the new century, helped to create these huge audiences, who
looked to the popular monthlies as guides to manners, lifestyle, and upward
mobility. Because the literacy rate varied within the new mass audiences,
illustrations were a key selling point for magazines.
By the teens and twenties, notes art historian Rowland Elzea,
illustrators "shared with matinee idols and sports figures the role of folk
heroes--discussed, compared, revered and collected"; they played a "dual role of
entertainer and enlightener." Like other celebrities, they were not just
well known but well paid. Charles Dana Gibson received $1,000 for each of the
100 "Gibson Girl" covers he drew for Collier's during the first decade of the
century; the magazine paid the same rate to Frederic Remington. The annual
incomes of Gibson, Harrison Fisher, and Howard Chandler Christy were estimated
at more than $50,000.
Jessie Willcox Smith led women earners in the field, with an
estimated annual income of $12,000 in 1910, and that figure rose in the
following years. Smith was paid between $1,500 and $1,800 for each of the
nearly 200 Good Housekeeping covers she did between 1917 and 1933; from this one
magazine, she made more than a quarter of a million dollars, in addition to what
she earned illustrating books and painting portraits of the children of the
The period's greatest illustrators had considerable prestige within
the art world--one, James Montgomery Flagg, wrote that "to be reproduced in
Scribner's in 1904 was the same thing to an illustrator as being hung in the
Paris Salon was to a painter"--along with huge public followings. Smith
regularly received fan letters from readers of the magazines in which her
illustrations appeared, strangers who wrote to her as personally, even lovingly,
as if she were a member of their families. Many of her admirers were
mothers, teachers, and children, and most of them wanted to know about her
background and personal life. This story--which she briefly shared with her
public in an autobiographical sketch she wrote for the October 1917 Good
Housekeeping, and which has been more fully reconstructed by several art
historians--does, in fact, offer important insights into her art, and that of
other women in the field.
A Women's Art Community
Jessie Willcox Smith was born in 1863 in Philadelphia, the city
where she would live and work most of her life. She trained to be a
kindergarten teacher but soon found that "children appealed to me more as
pictures than as pupils." Like many creative women of her era, Smith
maintained that her talent was "discovered quite by accident" but admitted that
she "began almost at once to draw little things for the children's
magazines." The start of her career was not as accidental as she claimed;
the first sale of one of her "little things" (to a children's magazine, St.
Nicholas) occurred only after she had studied art for three years.
Fortunately for Smith, her native city was home to some of the
nation's major art schools, and those schools had a tradition of training women
as well as men. In 1885, she entered the Philadelphia School of Design for
Women but was disappointed with its focus on craftwork and its view of its
students as hobbyists. Later that year she entered the Pennsylvania Academy of
the Fine Arts, where she studied under the painters Thomas Anschutz and Thomas
In 1889, Smith took a salaried job in the advertising department
of The Ladies' Home Journal, then based in Philadelphia. Some of her work
there, such as the ads she drew for Ivory Soap during the 1890s, featured
children and foreshadowed her future editorial work. After five years, she
enrolled in the first illustration class ever offered at the Drexel Institute of
Arts and Sciences, under Howard Pyle, one of the pioneers of magazine
Pyle's classes set the foundations for Smith's career and for her
personal life. There, she found a teacher who took her seriously, forced her to
test her own limits as an artist, and provided her with her first important
contacts within the publishing industry; she studied with students (including
Maxfield Parrish) who would later be some of the most successful illustrators of
the early twentieth-century; and she met Violet Oakley and Elizabeth Shippen
Green, two fellow students who would become her studiomates, housemates, and
One-third of Pyle's students were women, many of whom--with Smith
and Green at their core--created the domestic scenes that would later challenge
the girlish creations of male illustrators. These women quickly formed a
community of friendship, and several of them set up studios and/or homes
together. One group to do so was Smith, Green, Oakley, and another Pyle student
named Jessie Dowd. Such a living arrangement was not uncommon at the time. As
John D'Emilio and Estelle Freedman have noted, in the early twentieth century,
college-educated women professionals who remained single often created
households with each other, jointly owning property, vacationing together, and
becoming involved in the lives of each other's families. (Similar households
were established by well-known women in various fields, including social
reformers Jane Addams and Lillian Wald, Bryn Mawr president M. Carey Thomas, and
novelist Willa Cather.)
In their shared Philadelphia home and studio, the women artists
critiqued each other's work and occasionally served as models for each other's
illustrations. But what their partnership primarily provided was the
financial and moral support each one needed to embark on a full-time career. In
1900, Smith, Green, and Oakley moved to the suburb of Bryn Mawr, where they
were joined by Henrietta Cozens, a friend of Green's and an expert gardener
whose outdoor labors created a backdrop for Smith's pictures of children.
Cozens oversaw the household affairs so that her housemates could devote their
full attention to their work.
These were indeed productive years for the artists. Smith had left
the Journal's advertising department (where Green had also briefly worked) in
to concentrate on book commissions. She was becoming known for her
but upbeat style, which one art critic, writing in 1900, described
as "definite and frank . . . vital and strong." In 1902, Smith and Green
collaborated on The Book of the Child, a collection of their best drawings of
children, which gained national attention. Green, who by then had more
than 100 magazine illustration credits to her name--mainly domestic
scenes--began an exclusive contract with the various Harper's magazines that
would be renewed through 1924. Smith's work was winning awards in the art
world and exposure in the commercial world, appearing inside magazines such
as Scribner's, Collier's, and Century and on the covers of the Journal and
In 1904, Collier's offered Smith a two-year, exclusive contract,
putting her in distinguished company: other illustrators thus engaged by the
magazine at the time were Maxfield Parrish, Charles Dana Gibson, and Frederic
Remington. During her contract period, the magazine printed nearly 40 of
her drawings, more than two dozen of them covers. This work extended her
reputation as a specialist in children and led to her next major commission, the
illustrations for a 1905 edition of Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of
It was at this time that Smith and her roommates moved to a nearby
farm that would be considered an artists' colony for the next three decades.
They named it Cogslea--after the first letter of each woman's last name (Cozens,
Oakley, Green, and Smith) plus "lea," an English suffix meaning "meadow." The
community received flattering attention from the press. In 1906, a women's
magazine writer--who offered their partnership as an example of how women could
succeed in art--called them "types of the modern, capable, thoroughly
self-sufficient yet charmingly public-spirited American girl." Most
publicity about the group, however, cast them not as trendsetters, but rather as
Victorian gentlewomen. One journalist of the day called them "very clever young
women [who] lived out their daily artistic lives under one roof in the gentle
comraderie of some Old World 'school' . . . ." This was much how they were
received by their wealthy, socially-prominent neighbors, who sent their children
over to be painted by Smith and Green and invited the artists to discuss their
work at luncheons.
The Cogslea women took care of not only each other, but also each
other's families and friends. The property was, on various occasions, home to
ill or elderly relatives including Smith's brother and aunt, Green's parents,
and Oakley's mother. They entertained other women artists, including
Charlotte Harding Brown and Alice Barber Stephens (who themselves had once
shared a home and studio), as well as Ethel Franklin Betts. In 1911, Elizabeth
Shippen Green married Philadelphia architect Huger Elliott, with whom she moved
away. Yet the couple built a house on the Cogslea property, where they stayed
on frequent visits and Green sometimes worked. In 1913, a new artist moved
in: Edith Emerson, a muralist and student of Violet Oakley.
At Cogslea, Smith continued her ascending career as a book
illustrator, with works including a 1915 edition of Louisa May Alcott's classic,
Little Women, and Charles Kingsley's The Water Babies (1916). She took
advertising commisions and, after the expiration of her Collier's contract in
1906, did covers for The Ladies' Home Journal, McClure's, and Woman's Home
Companion. She also contributed inside illustrations to Harper's Bazaar,
Scribner's, and Good Housekeeping.
It was the last magazine that offered Smith the work that would
earn her a place in magazine history. In 1917, she accepted a contract to be
the exclusive cover artist for Good Housekeeping, and she continued in this role
until March 1933, two years before her death. For 16 years, Smith presented
her view of mothers and children--especially children--on the magazine's covers.
Maternal Scenes in the Age of the Gibson Girl and the Flapper
Today, such material seems predictable for a woman artist working
80 years ago. Yet Smith's domestic vision was out of sync with a changing view
of womanhood that dominated popular culture in the new century. The first three
decades of the twentieth century might, in fact, be best characterized as "the
Age of the Girl" in American media and entertainment.
Charles Dana Gibson's drawings of young women in Collier's
magazine are among the best-remembered images of American women in the early
twentieth century. One art historian describes the "Gibson Girl" as an
"superior" being who "moved with easy assurance and rarely betrayed any emotion
beyond the ghost of a smile . . . . the Gibson formula [was] a narrow waist and
long shapely legs, a full but trim bosom, clearcut, aloof features, and that
During the first decades of the 1900s, the Gibson Girl appeared not
only in the pages of Collier's, but also on wallpaper, scarves, ashtrays, and
pillow covers, and in popular songs and plays.  Soon there were imitators:
the "Fisher Girls" drawn by Harrison Fisher for Cosmopolitan (then a
general-interest magazine) and the "Christy Girls" drawn by Howard Chandler
Christy for Scribner's and McClure's. Harrison Fisher attributed the success of
such images to the fact "that what the public desired most to look at was a
By the 1910s, such beautiful but self-absorbed creatures could be
seen in other types of popular culture of the day, as well. The new medium of
the movies featured young actresses named for their studios, such as "The
Biograph Girl" and "The Vitagraph Girl"; Clara Bow, a movie-star "flapper,"
became known as "The 'It' Girl." The greatest girl star of all was Mary
Pickford, who played child roles into her thirties. In the titles and
lyrics of popular sheet music--another mass medium that sold in the
millions-per-copy--women were called girls or gals and were portrayed as
manipulative, selfish, and immature, looking out for their own interests and
uninterested in commitment. Hit songs included "There's a Little Bit of Bad in
Every Good Little Girl" and "Danger (Look Out for that Gal!)." The
sensation on Broadway was the Ziegfeld Follies, which ran from 1907 to 1931 and
featured a parade of tall, beautifully-dressed but blank-faced "Ziegfeld
Perhaps inspired by the show of legs in the Ziegfeld Follies, a
number of male magazine illustrators began to draw bathing beauties. One was
Alberto Vargas, whose "Vargas Girls" appeared in Esquire beginning in the 1920s.
Another was Coles Phillips, who was also known for his "fadeaway girls," slim
young women who seemed to simply disappear into the background.
By the 1920s, some male illustrators' depictions of girls bore
little relationship at all to flesh-and-blood females. Maxfield Parrish was
drawing fantasy girls--ethereal and otherwordly, figments of the
imagination--for Life (then a humor magazine) and other periodicals. Life's
main contribution to the image of women, however, was John Held's "flapper," who
appeared on hundreds of the magazine's covers during the decade. These women
were not only "shameless and selfish" (the words one flapper used to describe
herself in a 1922 New York Times article); they were cartoons,
Held's flappers offer perhaps the best evidence of, to quote
cultural historian Martha Banta, "the part popular visual representations of the
New Woman have had in transforming the type into a harmless joke." His
vision of womanhood is also as far from maternal as possible: one scholar who
has surveyed women's body images in the twentieth century describes the flapper
type as "remarkable for the near absence of female sexual characteristics,"
and Held's creations--skinny, flat-chested, hipless--fit the bill.
In the meantime, something very different was going on in the art
of women illustrators, especially the work they did for women's magazines. In
these pictures, women were drawn as mature adults and often shown with
children--the definitive clue that a woman is no longer a girl, and is no longer
carefree. One magazine writer of the day noted that "The Gibson and Christie
(sic) type is almost wholly absent from the ranks of the woman artist."
Jessie Willcox Smith was only the best-known of many women
illustrators of her era who specialized in drawing mothers and children. The
pioneer of this tradition was Alice Barber Stephens, whose maternal images had
appeared in Century, Scribner's, the Harper's magazines, and The Ladies' Home
Journal beginning in the 1880s, and who was still working in the early twentieth
century. Elizabeth Shippen Green created similar scenes for the Harper's
magazines as well as The Ladies' Home Journal and The Saturday Evening Post.
Like Smith, she often drew mothers bending down or leaning over, helping or
paying attention to a child. The way women "looked" in these illustrations had
less to do with their personal appearances than with their activities and
Other women working in this genre were regularly employed by
national magazines. They included Sarah Stilwell, Ethel Franklin Betts,
Charlotte Harding Brown, Ellen Bernard Thompson, Alice Beard, Katharine
Richardson, Mary Ellen Sigsbee, Ada Clendenin Williamson, Frances Tipton Hunter,
Maud Humphrey, sisters Maude and Genevieve Cowles, and Neysa McMein.
Some of these artists were associated primarily with
general-interest magazines--from Brown's steady work in the early 1900s for
Century to Ellen Bernard Thompson's affiliation with The Saturday Evening Post
in the 1920s--even though their subject matter was domestic. Yet most of the
women found their best markets in the major women's magazines: The Ladies' Home
Journal, Good Housekeeping, and Woman's Home Companion, and McCall's. While
Smith was engaged in her long association with Good Housekeeping, Neysa McMein
was under contract (from 1923 to 1937) as the exclusive cover artist for
Eleven of the sixteen women listed above were students of
Howard Pyle between 1894 and 1910. Art historian Charlotte Streifer Rubinstein
notes the similarity of not only subject matter but also style in their work and
offers this consistency as evidence that "teachers are not the only influence on
a student body: Students teach one another. The women students of Pyle were
such good friends that their artistic style was affected by mutually shared
Philip Hale, a newspaper art critic writing in 1907, noticed the
difference between the way women illustrators drew women and the way their male
counterparts drew girls. In a column titled "Women Surpassing Men
Illustrators"-(which began by calling Jessie Willcox Smith "an excellent
example" of women's work in the field) Hale coyly suggested one reason for women
Possibly they--ah, malicious sex--don't find the Gibson girl,
with her French doll eyes, her tip-tilted nose, her chin bent
to one side, so fascinating as do our guileless men--illustrators
and others. Their girls--the ones these women make--have
an individuality . . . which our good men are afraid to inject in
their creations, for fear people will say they "can't make a
Motherhood in Life and Art
The fact that the women illustrators portrayed women not only as
realistic-looking adults, but specifically as mothers is significant.
Motherhood was a controversial and much-discussed topic in the Age of the Girl.
White supremists feared that falling childbirth rates among
native-born, middle-class, white women, in the face of the swelling immigrant
population, would lead to "race suicide," a phrase even the politically moderate
Theodore Roosevelt used. Ladies' Home Journal editor Edward Bok urged his
readers to make motherhood, rather than suffrage or economic advancement, their
priority, while a discussion of birth control in 1911 and 1912 issues of
Good Housekeeping prompted letters to the editor in which readers called
childless women selfish. Aggravating such concerns was the fact that many
college-educated women were remaining single and pursuing careers and
limited numbers of other young women were emulating the sexually-free,
hedonistic life of the flapper.
Neverthless, the majority of American women did continue to marry
and have children, and married women who were unable to conceive went to great
lengths to adopt. These women, writes social historian Elaine Tyler May,
were devoted to home and family and likely to "place hopes for happiness in
their children." The domestic lifestyle was idealized by "maternalists,"
female social reformers (such as members of the National Congress of Mothers)
whose goals overlapped with the growing feminist movement. Twentieth-century
maternalism, notes social-welfare historian Molly Ladd-Taylor, was "an ideology
rooted in the nineteenth-century doctrine of separate spheres" and based on the
premise "that there is a uniquely feminine value system based on care and
Other female reformers encouraged American women to engage in
"civic housekeeping," an extension of the moral and domestic standards of the
home into the larger society through volunteer work and women's clubs.
Older activists, especially suffragists, criticized young women who felt no
obligations to home and community and instead pursued a bohemian life. As
historian Ann Douglas has noted, this generational tension was presented in the
media of the day as a battle between women and girls, between mothers and
Like the social reformers, Jessie Willcox Smith--who was in her
mid-fifties when she began her nearly-two-decade association with Good
Housekeeping, her best-known work--came down squarely on the side of mothers,
whose work she took seriously. She took the children she drew seriously, too.
She drew most of them in outdoor settings, which she considered more natural
than drawing-room poses. Like the mothers she drew, her children were
lifelike; to quote a reader who wrote to Good Housekeeping in 1926, they "really
look like children."
Some of her child subjects appeared adorably cheerful, but many
others seemed perplexed, curious, or surprised. One critic of the day praised
the "sympathetically human feeling" in Smith's work, adding that "she touches
the simple, homely sides of life with a loving hand, yet with a degree of fine
insight which keeps the sentiment of her work far from the banal." The
artist Edith Emerson wrote that Smith's children "attract and win without
guile." Her biographer, S. Michael Schnessel, notes that her portraits
"were so universal, so representative of the American youngsters that the
publication [Good Housekeeping] received numerous letters from concerned mothers
in all parts of the country saying basically the same thing: 'Where did you
steal my child?'"
A writer for Woman's Home Companion claimed that "woman's innate
maternal love" gave women illustrators an advantage in drawing children, and she
singled out Smith's drawings as art "only a woman's eye and hand could
create." Smith and other women illustrators did little to contradict such
assumptions. In fact, Smith created a maternal public image for herself,
speaking glowingly of children and the job of motherhood. She looked and acted
the part. Photographs of her taken at different ages present a consistently
Victorian picture: a serious expression, her hair in a bun, a high-necked, long
dress, soft lighting. Acquaintances described her as reserved, soft-spoken,
kind, and modest. Edith Emerson remembered that her friend showed "no trace of
Schnessel considers Smith's choice of "scenes of motherly love"
ironic and "undeniably sad"--"a dominant theme that speaks volumes about her own
needs and desires." Nevertheless, he adds that "Spinsterhood never seemed
to trouble her, and she rarely spoke with regret about not having married. She
was not without suitors in her youth and in her middle years . . . . she
annually hosted a Swiss businessman who came to the United States once each
year. Annually he made a proposal of marriage, and annually she would
One explanation for Smith's lack of regret--or concern--over her
own unmarried state was the strong network of friends that she built around
herself. This Victorian woman who idealized family life in her art made her own
family not of children and a husband, but of other women. Her support system
extended beyond Cogslea through her personal and professional contacts with
other women illustrators. Smith's correspondence also reveals a close
relationship with another woman named Jessie, perhaps the artist Jessie Dowd,
her former roommate.
A second explanation is that she held--or, at any rate,
expressed--clear views on in the impossibility of combining motherhood and
career. She told a journalist in 1927, "A woman's sphere is as sharply defined
as a man's. If she elects to be a housewife and mother--that is her sphere, and
no other. If on the other hand she elects to go into business or the arts, she
must sacrifice motherhood in order to fill successfully her chosen sphere." The
writer added, however, that Smith considered an unmarried woman's sphere to be
as wide as a man's.
Smith's partnership with Green and Oakley, and her community of
women artists, gave her the emotional and financial base from which she could
explore that wider sphere. It also enabled her to draw her own vision of
American womanhood at a time when popular-culture images of women were not
particularly flattering. That she succeeded in both of these endeavors was
evident in the fact that she became a major illustrator with a consistent and
widely-recognized theme. S. Michael Schnessel notes that "One remarkable aspect
of Smith's illustration . . . is that her works are often seen alone without
accompanying text. It was thought that her works had enough of a following to
stand on their own. Few artists achieved the same privilege . . . ."
An Alternative View of Womanhood
Such popularity suggests that Smith's view of family life struck a
chord (or a nerve) among readers despite--or perhaps because of--the prevalence
of the caricaturized "girl" image in media and entertainment and the cultural
illusion of newness and change in women's lives. What Smith and other women
illustrators offered readers was an alternative view of womanhood, one that was
relatively unchanging and yet consistently respectful.
This is not to say that American women continued to consider
motherhood the only career available to them in the new century. Nor it is to
deny the cultural existence of "the New Woman" as a concept that symbolized real
political and economic gains for women during the 1910s and 1920s. Yet to a
significant extent, the idea of a new woman was co-opted in popular culture and
transformed into a "modern girl" who was more amusing than progressive.
Given that interpretation of progress, women illustrators (and
their audience) may have chosen to identify with images that depicted a less
drastic transformation in women's lives. In much the same way maternalist
reformers used domestic rhetoric, these artists used images of motherhood to
assert women's social agency. At the same time, their own lives and careers
offer a glimpse of what was actually possible for professional women in the
early twentieth century.
Jessie Willcox Smith and her female peers are worth inclusion in
media histories because they are major figures in magazine illustration. But
they are important in a larger sense as well. By using their art as a lens
through which to look back on the early years of mass-market magazines, we see a
different picture of womanhood, one that offers a fresh perspective on the
Gibson Girl and the flapper. The recovery and preservation of that alternative
view enriches our understanding of the American media past.
S. Michael Schnessel, Jessie Willcox Smith (New York: Thomas Y.
Crowell, 1977), 44.
 Catherine Connell Stryker, The Studios at Cogslea,
Exhibition catalog, February 20-28, 1976 (Wilmington: Delaware Art Museum,
 Jessie Willcox Smith, "Jessie Willcox Smith," Good
Housekeeping 65 (October 1917): 190.
 Janet Woolf, The Social Production of Art, 2nd ed. (New
York: New York University Press, 1993), 1, 40.
 Stryker, 5.
 Kirsten N. Swinth, Painting Professionals: Women Artists
and the Development of a Professional Ideal in American Art, 1870-1920,
Dissertation, Yale University, 1995, 6-7.
 Swinth; also, Michelle Bogart, "Artistic Ideals and
Commercial Practices: The Problem of Status for American Illustrators,"
Prospects: An Annual of American Cultural Studies 15 (1990): 225-81. Bogart
argues that this feminization was one of the factors that detracted from the
status of illustration as an art and the tendency of male illustrators to
downplay the role of women in the field. For instance, for the first five years
of its existence, a new professional organization, the New York-based Society of
Illustrators, admitted 88 members, only five of them women. Among those five,
however, were Smith and her two roommates, Elizabeth Shippen Green and Violet
Oakley (237). Swinth makes the same argument with regard to the field of
painting, in which women made significant professional gains around the turn of
 Helen Hale, "Hints to Young but Ambitious Artists from Some
of the Most Famous Women Illustrators," Chicago Examiner January 22, 1906: n.
p., in Elizabeth Shippen Green scrapbook, Archives of American Art, microfilm
roll P5. Among the names Hale mentioned were Elizabeth Shippen Green and Alice
 Among the magazines with more than a million readers in the
first decade of the twentieth century were The Saturday Evening Post and The
Ladies' Home Journal.
 Bogart, 67.
 Information in this paragraph comes from Bogart; John
Tebbel and Mary Ellen Zuckerman, The Magazine in America, 1741-1990 (New York:
Oxford University Press, 1991); and Amy Janello and Brennon Jones, The American
Magazine (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1991).
 Roland Elzea, Introduction, Howard Pyle (New York: Charles
Scribner's Sons, 1975). Book not paginated.
 Janello and Jones, 168.
 "Modern Picture Making and Its Generous Rewards: How a
Group of Illustrators Is Reaping Fortunes by Drawing Pictures of the 'Modern
Girl,'" The Philadelphia Public Ledger February 6, 1910: n.p., in Elizabeth
Shippen Green scrapbook, roll P5, Archives of American Art. This income range
for top talents of the era is confirmed in Janello and Jones, 168-69.
 "Modern Picture Making . . . ." The article estimated
Elizabeth Shippen Green's income at $10,000.
 Schnessel, 135; Gene Mitchell, The Subject Was Children:
The Art of Jessie Willcox Smith (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1979), 3. Smith also
negotiated royalty clauses in her magazine- and book-illustration contracts, and
much of her income by the 1920s came from the commercial uses of reproductions
(as, for instance, posters and postcards) of her cover art. Evidence of royalty
income from various sources can be found in Smith's personal papers (1901-1931)
in the Archives Department of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts,
Philadelphia, Pa. Other papers indicate that she resold illustrations for high
prices to wealthy Philadelphians. On a 1924 exhibition checklist, Smith
handwrote the prices she received for 54 of her paintings that had been used as
magazine and book illustrations; 40 sold at $150 and above, a few for $300
("Portraits, Drawings and Illustrations by Jessie Willcox Smith," exhibition
list, December 4-28, 1924, in the records of The Philadelphia Art Alliance, Van
Pelt Library, University of Pennsylvania, Coll. 53, Folder 624.)
 Janello and Jones, 169.
 More than a hundred examples, from every part of the U. S.,
survive in the archives of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
 The biographical information in this and following
sections, on Smith's background, education, career, living arrangements, and
friends is confirmed in a number of sources, among them: Mitchell; Smith
herself (the Good Housekeeping article); Schnessel; Stryker; Edward D. Nudelman,
Jessie Willcox Smith: A Bibliography (Gretna: Pelican Publishing, 1989);
Patricia Likos, "The Ladies of the Red Rose," The Feminist Art Journal 5 (fall
1976): 11-15, 43; Smith's New York Times obituary ("Miss Jessie Smith,
Illustrator, Dead," May 4, 1935, 13); her papers in the archives of the
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; and the papers and scrapbooks of Smith,
Elizabeth Shippen Green, and Violet Oakley viewed on microfilm from the Archives
of American Art, Washington, DC. However, quotations and other very specific
pieces of information are attributed to individual sources.
 Letter from Smith to "Mr. Abbott," n. d., in Smith's
personal papers in the archives of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
 Smith, 24-25.
 According to Christine Jones Huber, The Pennsylvania
Academy and Its Women, 1850 to 1920, Exhibition catalog, May 3-June 16, 1973
(Philadelphia: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1974), the Pennsylvania
Academy began accepting women students in 1844, the same year the School of
Design for Women was founded (11-12). At the Academy, classes were segregated
by gender until the 1870s (21).
 Mitchell, 7.
 According to Walt Reed, The Illustrator in America,
1900-1960s (New York: Reinhold, 1966), Pyle's career began in the 1870s with
illustrations for Harper's magazine. Reed considers Pyle the greatest
illustrator ever (13). His career is also surveyed in Charles D. Abbott, Howard
Pyle: A Chronicle (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1925) and Henry C. Pitz, Howard
Pyle: Writer, Illustrator, Founder of the Brandywine School (New York: Clarkson
N. Potter, 1975).
 John D'Emilio and Estelle B. Freedman, Intimate Matters: A
History of Sexuality in America (New York: Harper & Row, 1988), 190-91. The
Cogslea women were professionally acquainted with the women mentioned here:
Green drew calendars and Oakley drew murals for Bryn Mawr, suggesting an
acquaintance with Thomas; Oakley later became involved in the peace movement and
painted a portrait of Addams; and Smith sold some of her work to Cather while
the latter was managing editor of McClure's, from 1908 to 1912. Addams' and
Thomas's partnerships are mentioned in D'Emilio and Freedman, 190-91; Wald is
discussed in Blanche Wiesen Cook, "Female Support Networks and Political
Activism: Lillian Wald, Crystal Eastman, Emma Goldman," Chrysalis 3 (1977):
43-61; Cather's relationships with women are discussed in many biographies,
including Sharon O'Brien, Willa Cather: The Emerging Voice (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1987).
 Likos, 14.
 Jessie Dowd had by then moved back to her native Ohio. In
Bryn Mawr, they leased the Red Rose Inn, a home described in detail in Mary
Tracy Earle, "The Red Rose," The Lamp: A Review and Record of Current
Literature 26 (May 1903): 275-86.
 In this sense, Cozens performed a support service for her
housemates that most women artists lacked. Another American painter, Anna Lea
Merritt, addressed this problem in a magazine article: "The chief obstacle to a
woman's success," she wrote in 1900, "is that she can never have a wife. Just
reflect what a wife does for an artist: Darns his stockings; Keeps his house;
Writes his letters; Visits for his benefit; Wards off intruders; Is personally
suggestive of beautiful pictures; Always an encouraging and partial critic. It
is exceedingly difficult to be an artist without this time-saving help." (Anna
Lea Merritt, "A Letter to Artists, Especially Women Artists," Lippincott Monthly
Magazine, 65 [March 1900]: 467-8.)
 Regina Armstrong, "Representative American Women
Illustrators: The Decorative Workers," The Critic June 1900: 523.
 Accompanied by poetry written by Mabel Humphrey.
 The same year, Oakley, who had begun painting murals, was
asked to decorate the Governor's Reception Room in the new state capitol
building at Harrisburg--which, according to Charlotte Streifer Rubinstein
(American Women Artists from Early Indian Times to the Present [New York: Avon,
1982], 159), was the largest public mural commission ever awarded to a woman in
the United States. Oakley did continue to illustrate for some magazines,
however, including The Ladies' Home Journal, Century, Everybody's, and
Collier's. One cover for the latter publication, dated June 21, 1902, depicted
the studiomates around the dinner table, with their glasses raised in a toast,
though only her own and Smith's faces are visible. This cover is reproduced in
Edward J. Sozanski, "Keeping a Legacy Alive," The Philadelphia Inquirer August
9, 1987, p. 1-D.
 These prizes included the bronze medal at a 1902
international exposition in Charleston, S. C.; the Mary Smith Prize, for the
best work by a woman artist, from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in
1903 (which Green would win in 1905); and the Silver Medal for illustration at
the 1904 St. Louis International Exposition. The Gold Medal at the latter event
was won by Violet Oakley. (Schnessel, 38, 40-41; Elizabeth Shippen Green
papers, microfilm roll P5, Archives of American Art)
 "Exclusively for Collier's" [editor's page], Collier's
October 14, 1905: 21.
 Smith did another 16 illustrations, nine of them covers,
for the magazine between 1906 and 1916, when she was no longer under contract.
 The book included 15 large drawings and 100 small ones, for
which she received a total payment of $3,600. (Letter from J. H. Chapin,
Scribner's Magazine Art Department, to Smith, d. December 23, 1903, in Smith's
personal papers in the archives of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.)
 Jessie Trimble, "Studying and Succeeding in Art," New Idea
Woman's Magazine n.d., 1900: 14, in Elizabeth Shippen Green scrapbook, roll P5,
Archives of American Art. Note the use of the word "girl" and "young" in this
and the next quote--despite the fact that Smith then was in her forties and
Green and Oakley were in their thirties.
 Harrison S. Morris, "Jessie Willcox Smith," The Book Buyer
24 (1902): 201. Quoted in Stryker, 10.
 Oakley in particular spoke frequently at such upscale
social events and later offered art classes and a lecture series for society
women. The three artists were also members of The Philadelphia Art Alliance,
founded in 1915 by Christine Wetherill Stevenson, the daughter of Philadelphia
real-estate magnate Samuel Price Wetherill. The group's patrons included the
city's social elite and prominent businessmen. For instance, a Mrs. Edward
Biddle was on the founding board of directors, and during the 1920s Edward Bok,
the then-retired editor of The Ladies' Home Journal, served as an honorary
vice-president (Theo B. White, The Philadelphia Art Alliance: Fifty Years,
1915-1965 [Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1965], 32, 62).
Another example of the women's social acceptance was their involvement in the
homefront war effort during World War I, when Smith and Green illustrated
posters and calendars to help raise money for the Red Cross, and Oakley painted
murals for 25 U. S. battleships.
 Smith also helped to financially support eleven of her
nieces and nephews.
 Chestnut Hill Historical Society, "The Artistic Legacy of
Cogslea: Past and Present: A Walking Tour of the Environs of Cogslea"
[pamphlet] (Chestnut Hill, Pa., May 6, 1995). Correspondence and photographs
belonging to Green and Smith indicate that the two worked together at
Cogslea--Smith taking photographs of scenes used in Green's book
illustrations--as late as the 1920s (Jessie Willcox Smith Photographs [Coll.
P.9446, Boxes 1-3], Prints Department, The Library Company, Philadelphia).
 Emerson and Oakley had the barn at Cogslea remodeled into a
living and work space, since they needed its size for their murals; they called
the barn "Lower Cogslea." Meanwhile, Smith bought property adjacent to the farm
and built a house for herself and Henrietta Cozens, calling it "Cogshill."
 Other important book work Smith did during this period
included Carolyn Wells' The Seven Ages of Childhood (1909; some of these
illustrations later appeared in The Ladies' Home Journal); Dickens' Children
(1910; some would appear in Scribner's); and Smith's own The Little Mother Goose
 Smith's long association with Good Housekeeping no doubt
cemented her social reputation as conservative and conventional, despite her
professional success and personal lifestyle. In its announcement that Smith had
become the magazine's exclusive cover artist, the editors wrote: "Certainly no
other artist is so fitted to understand us, and to make for us pictures so truly
an index to what we as a magazine are striving for--the holding up to our
readers of the highest ideals of the American home, the home with that certain
sweet wholesomeness one associates with a sunny living-room--and children."
("The Secret was about Covers," Good Housekeeping 65 [November 1917]: 32.)
 Information on Gibson and the other male illustrators
discussed here is taken from several sources, including Pitz; Janello and Jones;
Shelley Armitage, John Held, Jr.: Illustrator of the Jazz Age (Syracuse, N. Y.:
Syracuse University Press, 1987); Maxfield Parrish: The Poster Book (Berkeley,
Calif.: Ten Speed Press, 1994); Walt and Roger Reed, The Illustrator in America,
1880-1980 (New York: Madison Square Press, 1984); and two books by Walt Reed:
Great American Illustrators (New York: Abbeville Press, 1979), and The
Illustrator in America, 1900-1960s (New York: Reinhold, 1966).
 Gibson did at one point draw women as mothers--during World
War I, when he served as head of the Committee on Public Information's Division
of Pictorial Publicity. These illustrations often showed mothers sending their
sons off to war. One example is reprinted in Jean Folkerts and Dwight L.
Teeter, Jr., Voices of a Nation: A History of Mass Media in the United States,
2nd ed. (New York: Macmillan, 1994), 326.
 Pitz, 175-76.
 "Modern Picture Making . . . ."
 See, for instance, William K. Everson, American Silent Film
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1978).
 "There's a Little Bit of Bad in Every Good Little Girl" by
Grant Clarke and Fred Fisher (New York: Leo Feist, 1916); "Danger (Look Out for
that Gal!)" by Charles O'Flynn and Eddie Kilfeather (New York: A. J. Stasny,
1928). Other titles from the era include: "You Never Can Be Too Sure about the
Girls" by Rubey Cowan, Lew Brown, and Bobby Heath (New York: Broadway Music,
1917); "My Girl Has I Trouble (I Want This! I Want That!)" by Ted Fiorito and
Gus Kahn (New York: Leo Feist, 1926); "When a Blonde Makes Up Her Mind" by Sammy
Fain, Willie Raskin, and Irving Mills (New York: Jack Mills, 1925); "Red Hot
Mamma" by Gilbert Wells, Bud Cooper, and Fred Rose (New York: Rainbow Music,
1924); and "Whose Little Heart Are You Breaking Now?" by Irving Berlin (New
York: Waterson, Berlin, & Snyder Co., 1917). Copies of this music is in the
Alice Marshall Collection at Penn State Harrisburg, Middletown, Pa. (Sheet
Music, Box F).
 See Marjorie Farnsworth, The Ziegfeld Follies (New York:
Bonanza Books, 1956).
 As explained by Reed, The Illustrator in America, 65.
 Ruth Hooper, "Flapping Not Repented Of," The New York Times
Book Review and Magazine July 16, 1922: 13.
 To be fair to Held, what he was no doubt really
caricaturizing in his Life covers of the 1920s was the shallowness and
self-preoccupation of American society itself during the decade. Still, it is
significant that he used women's images to do this.
 Martha Banta, Imaging American Women: Idea and Ideals in
Cultural History (New York: Columbia University Press, 1987), 62.
 Allan Mazur, "U. S. Trends in Feminine Beauty and
Overadaptation," The Journal of Sex Research 22 (August 1986): 288.
 Trimble, 14.
 McMein was an exception to the genre described here in that
she drew adult women (often sophisticated-looking) who were not always in the
company of children; still, she did enough covers of babies and children to
place her within this group in terms of both content and style. Specific
magazine credits and biographical information for her and the other women can be
found in: Huber; Schnessel; Reed, The Illustrator in America; Walt and Roger
Reed; Donna G. Bachmann and Sherry Piland, Women Artists: An Historical,
Contemporary and Feminist Bibliography (Metuchen, N. J.: The Scarecrow Press,
1978); Roland Elzea and Elizabeth Hawkes, eds., A Small School of Art: The
Students of Howard Pyle (Wilmington: Delaware Art Museum, 1980); Regina
Armstrong, "Representative American Women Illustrators: The Child
Interpreters," The Critic May 1900: 417-30; Elizabeth Lore North, "Women
Illustrators of Child Life," The Outlook 78 (1904): 271-80; and Anne E. Mayer,
Women Artists in the Howard Pyle Tradition, Exhibition catalog, September
6-November 23, 1975 (Chadds Ford, Pa.: Brandywine River Museum, 1975).
 All but Humprey, Hunter, the Cowles sisters, and McMein.
Hunter, however, was a Philadelphian and did study at the Pennsylvania Academy.
 Rubinstein, 159. It is probably also significant that all
of these women artists remained in Philadelphia. Their career paths in this
sense contrast with another group of male illustrators who trained at the
Pennsylvania Academy but left their newspaper illustration jobs for painting
careers, and left Philadelphia for New York--the "ashcan realists." Also known
as "The Eight," this group (whose best-known members were Robert Henri and John
Sloan) specialized in scenes of urban poverty and working-class life and later
contributed to the Socialist magazine The Masses (Bennard B. Perlman, Painters
of the Ashcan School: The Immortal Eight (New York: Dover Publications, 1979).
 Philip L. Hale, "Women Surpassing Men Illustrators."
Newspaper name unknown, n. d., 1907. Uncredited clipping, Jessie Willcox Smith
file in the library of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
 Bok articulated this position, which he maintained into
the twentieth century, as early as 1890, when he wrote, ". . . sometimes I begin
to wonder if woman is not progressing in the wrong direction, if she is not
drifting away from that home anchorage for which God intended her. There is no
mission so great or urgent which justifies a woman from leaving a home in which
is her husband and her children." (The Ladies' Home Journal March 1890: 8,
quoted in Helen Damon-Moore, Magazines for the Millions: Gender and Commerce in
the Ladies' Home Journal and the Saturday Evening Post, 1880-1910 [Albany: State
University of New York Press, 1994], 83).
 Margaret Marsh and Wanda Ronner, The Empty Cradle:
Infertility in America from Colonial Times to the Present (Baltimore: Johns
Hopkins University Press, 1996), 113, 116.
 Fifty-three percent of women who attended Bryn Mawr (to
choose a Philadelphia example) between 1889 and 1908 did not marry; statistics
were similar for alumnae of Wellesley College and the University of Michigan
(D'Emilio and Freedman, 190).
 Marsh and Ronner; Elaine Tyler May, Great Expectations:
Marriage and Divorce in Post-Victorian America (Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 1980). According to Marsh and Ronner, the average marriage rate among
white American women has never fallen below 90 percent.
 May, 89.
 Molly Ladd-Taylor, Mother-Work: Women, Child Welfare, and
the State, 1890-1930 (Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 1994), 3.
 The considerable involvement of women journalists and
women's periodicals in the civic (or "municipal") housekeeping movement has been
the subject of work by women journalism historians including Kathleen Endres and
Agnes Hooper Gottlieb.
 Smith was neither a suffragist nor a club woman, although
she maintained close friendships with women who were both (including Violet
Oakley, one of the other artists with whom Smith shared a studio and a home).
 Margaret Marsh cites as examples of such criticism Margaret
Slattery's 1918 book The American Girl and Her Community and Beatrice Forbes
Robinson Hale's 1923 book What's Wrong with Our Girls (Marsh, Suburban Lives
[New Brunswick, N. J.: Rutgers University Press, 1990], 134-35, 212n18, 20).
 Ann Douglas, Chapter 6, "The 'Dark Legend' of Matricide,"
Terrible Honesty: Mongrel Manhattan in the 1920s (New York: Farrar, Strauss,
1995), 217-253. A 1922 newspaper article, for instance, described the flapper
as a girl "who takes a man's point of view as her mother never could" (Hooper:
 Such a choice reinforces what historian Margaret Marsh has
described as the anti-urban sentiment of early-twentieth-century domestic
ideology and the increasingly popular notion of "the suburb as the proper place
to rear children" (Suburban Lives, 137).
 Letter from Lucy Van Haney, Brooklyn, N. Y., to Good
Housekeeping, d. November 28, 1926, in Smith's personal papers in the archives
of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
 Earle, 79.
 Edith Emerson, "The Age of Innocence: Portraits of Jessie
Willcox Smith," The American Magazine of Art 16 (July 1925): 342.
 Schnessel, 124. For instance, another letter written to
Smith in 1926 read: "I was very much thrilled on seeing the November cover of
Good Housekeeping, to find that my two darling children were portrayed thereon .
. . . Little Freddie's every characteristic line and pose is so perfect, and
Pamela's timid and wistful expression . . . Where and when did you see the
children?" (Letter from Constance Bell Pearson, Beverly, Mass., to Smith d.
October 28, 1926, in Smith's personal papers in the archives of the Pennsylvania
Academy of the Fine Arts).
 George Alfred Williams, "American Painters of Children,"
Woman's Home Companion 9 (September 1911): 15.
 Edith, Emerson, "An Appreciation," Memorial Exhibition of
the Work of Jessie Willcox Smith, exhibition catalog, March 14-April 12, 1936
(Philadelphia: The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1936).
 Schnessel, 21.
 Schnessel, 46.
 Such relationships between and among women (which, in the
case of couples, were sometimes called "Boston marriages") were socially
accepted in an era "which valued female sensibility and female bonds (D'Emilio
and Freedman, 191-92).
 A five-page, typed manuscript in Smith's personal papers,
in the Archives of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, with a notation
that it was "possibly an enclosure belonging with letter from Louise Hillyer
Armstrong to JWS, January 31, 1927."
 Schnessel, 162.
 Journalism historian Terry Hynes has also questioned the
historical reality of the New Woman image and challenged the "selective
memories" of historians of this era. Her 1981 content analysis of images of
women in the editorial pages (both nonfiction and fiction) of American magazines
between 1911 and 1930 showed far less change in their political and social
status than most historians "remember." (Terry Hynes, "Magazine Portrayal of
Women, 1911-1930," Journalism Monographs 72 [May 1981].)