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Exhibition Drawn to Purpose

Early Comics

During the formative years of the American comic strip, leading newspapers competed fiercely to publish the most popular features. Women cartoonists found that they were limited to a narrow range of subjects—babies, cute children, and animals—their editors, while their male counterparts had a much wider berth. Early comics creators Grace Drayton and Edwina Dumm featured the amusing antics of cute children and animals in successful strips that ran for years. A Sunday page of Dimples shows Drayton's talent for humorous narrative and her title character closely resembles the Campbell Kid, her own creation. Edwina Dumm charms readers with a lively story line for Tippie, her beloved canine character. From about 1917–1920, comics by both male and female cartoonists began to show the changing roles of women outside the home. Nell Brinkley featured such appealing, self-possessed female characters as Golden Eyes in a Sunday panel series, relating her search for the soldier she loves. Brinkley's fine-lined drawing and spirited female characters influenced such succeeding women cartoonists as Dale Messick. Among assertive female characters in the early comics, Little Lulu endured for decades, well after her creator Marge Henderson Buell delegated drawing and writing to others. Despite early limitations on subjects, gifted, persistent female cartoonists created characters that resonated with readers and achieved staying power.

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