The Story of Rose O'Neill: An Autobiography

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University of Missouri Press, 1997 - 154 pages

To most of us, Rose O'Neill is best known as the creator of the Kewpie doll, perhaps the most widely known character in American culture until Mickey Mouse. Prior to O'Neill's success as a doll designer, however, she already had earned a reputation as one of the best-known female commercial illustrators. Her numerous illustrations appeared in America's leading periodicals, including Life, Harper's Bazaar, and Cosmopolitan. While highly successful in the commercial world, Rose O'Neill was also known among intellectuals and artists for her contributions to the fine arts and humanities. In the early 1920s, her more serious works of art were exhibited in galleries in Paris and New York City. In addition, she published a book of poetry and four novels.

Yet, who was Rose Cecil O'Neill? Over the course of the twentieth century, Rose O'Neill has captured the attention of journalists, collectors, fans, and scholars who have disagreed over whether she was a sentimentalist or a cultural critic. Although biographers of Rose O'Neill have drawn heavily on portions of her previously unpublished autobiography, O'Neill's own voice--richly revealed in her well-written manuscript--has remained largely unheard until now.

In these memoirs, O'Neill reveals herself as a woman who preferred art, activism, and adventure to motherhood and marriage. Featuring photographs from the O'Neill family collection, The Story of Rose O'Neill fully reveals the ways in which she pushed at the boundaries of her generation's definitions of gender in an effort to create new liberating forms.


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This memoir by the creator of the once popular Kewpie figure lacks the literary strength to raise it above a mere curiosity. Until the advent of Mickey Mouse, the elfin Kewpies (`` `baby talk' for ... Read full review

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About the author (1997)

About the Editor

Miriam Formanek-Brunell is Associate Professor of History at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She is the author of Made to Play House: Girls and the Commercialization of American Girlhood, 1830-1930.

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