Found in the LOC: 25 Elizabeth Shippen Green Images

For today’s Found in the LOC, feast your eyes on over two dozen works by Elizabeth Shippen Green.

Inspired and encouraged as a child by her artist father, the exceptionally talented illustrator was first published in 1889, at age eighteen, and Green’s six decade career included contributions to popular and venerable publications Philadelphia Times, Women’s Home Companion, and the Saturday Evening Post, as well as to Harper’s magazine, with whom she signed an enviable exclusive contract in 1901, at age 30. She was the publication’s first female staff member.

Though Green’s gender was unique in the booming field of illustrators at the time, she was hardly alone: she was part of a growing generation of female artists, and, along with Jessie Willcox Smith and Violet Oakley, was part of a posse known as the Red Rose Girls, named after the inn where they lived and worked together in Philadelphia.

Despite what television producers from Aaron Spelling to Andy Cohen would like you to believe, Green and her contemporaries weren’t prone to back-stabbing or cat-fights. On the contrary, they were known for advocating for one another, helping others who typified that era’s “New Woman,” that is: women who left the kitchen and made it on their own. (This “New Woman” was the foremother of the “career woman” of the eighties and today’s “Liz Lemon” trying to“have it all,” because even a century after Green signed with Harper’s, society still has to label/problematize women who dare do what men do all the time, through all of time.)

Anyway, in celebration of Green’s trailblazing career, I’ve rounded up 25 of the nearly 200 of her images found at the Library of Congress’ website. Some are included simply because they’re gorgeous; others because they’re gothic, a favorite genre of Green’s and some of which remind me mightily of Charles Vess’ work on DC Comics’ Books of Magic series; and others are included simply because of their titles: Removed from the context of the stories they illustrated, some are given new weight against the backdrop of contemporary debates over gender and sex –. I particularly like the ones that appear to invert gender stereotypes, e.g. image #13, “Monsieur Brisson visibly shuddered and paled.” — others are just amusing, like image #22, “I observed it, a new ceiling.” LOL!

But seriously, check ’em out. They’re lovely.

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Found in the LOC: 12 Jessie Willcox Smith Color Plates

The Library of Congress is currently presenting a show of groundbreaking female illustrators and graphic designers in America. Called “Drawn to Purpose,” and up through October of this year, the collection features work by luminaries like fashion illustrator Grace Drayton; Mary Hollock Foote, one of the first women to work as a professional illustrator; and Jackie Ormes, a groundbreaking black female comic book creator behind the serialized story Heartbeats.

And then there’s Jessie Willcox Smith, the exceptional talent who provided countless illustrations for late 19th century and early 20th century magazines — Collier’s, Century and Harper’s, to name a few — and popular books, such as Little Women and A Child’s Book of Country Stories. Perhaps her most famous work, however, are the illustrations Smith provided for the 1916 re-issue of Charles Kinglsey’s fantastical morality tale, The Water-Babies, about a kid who drowns and must reclaim his righteousness to make it back to land.

That said, for this week’s “Found in the LOC,” and to celebrate the Library of Congress’ Drawn to Purpose show, here are a dozen of Smith’s whimsical yet sinister Water Babies water colors, all from 1916. Above, “Mrs. Doasyouwouldbedoneby” and “Mrs. Bedonebyasyoudid“.


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Happy B-Day, Captain America

It was 77 years ago, on December 20, 1940, that Captain America made his debut, punching Adolf Hitler on the cover of Captain America Comics #1.

His arrival came at the zenith of the golden age of superheroes: Superman debuted in 1938, Batman in 1939 and Wonder Woman earlier in 1940. Arriving in the ominous shadow of fascism, Cap and these other early superheroes didn’t fight super-powered villains. Not yet, at least. At that point in history, they existed solely to defend Western democracy against Axis enemies and similarly villainous, anti-freedom monsters.

Captain American and his contemporaries thus created a contemporary template for what it means to be an American, what American values represent and how we must always be vigilant against their erosion. In short, they taught lessons that remain imperative today.

That said, perhaps Captain America should be on required reading lists?