(1874 Wilkes-Barre, PA - 1944 Springfield, MO)
O'Neill will be most remembered for creating
the lovable Kewpie doll, a popular favorite of children and adults
during the period after World War I through the Depression.
The second of seven children, she was a self-trained artist,
winning an art competition for children at the age of thirteen.
Her father, a book dealer, and her mother encouraged her
ambitions, which included writing, acting and drawing. In
she entered the Convent of the Sisters of Saint Regis in New
and with nuns accompanying her on sales calls, O'Neill's illustrations
were soon appearing in magazines like Puck, Truth, Life, and Harper's.
compete in the male-dominated field, she signed her work with her
initials "C. R. O." to conceal the fact that she was a woman.
1896 she left the convent to marry Gray Latham, only to divorce five
years later. Meanwhile, she was producing hundreds of
illustrations for magazines and advertisers, like Kellogg's Corn
Flakes, Oxydol, Edison Victrolas and Jell-O. In
married again, to Harry Leon Wilson, then the literary editor of Puck magazine.
After a stay in Italy to paint and sculpt,
in 1908, divorced her husband, and moved to the family home in
Ozarks. Here, she found inspiration, and in a dream (she
the plump little Cupid-like creatures she called Kewpies were born.
They made their first appearance in Women's Home Companion
in 1909, and were soon a merchandising machine -- with a headquarters
at Rose O'Neill's Kewpie Shop on Madison Avenue in New York.
song about her (and her apartment), "Rose of Washington Square," was
first performed in 1919. Before winding down her
commercial career in 1921, she added postcard
her portfolio in 1915. In 1921, she
Castle in Connecticut, creating a salon for artists and
but returned to her family home, Bonniebrook, in the Ozarks
she died in 1944.
Read a more complete biography at Women
Children's Book Illustrators by Denise Ortakales.
from Rose O'Neill to the Artists page