Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Nina Allender & Other Cartoonists You Don't Know

The cartoon seen here is one by Nina Allender. It's dated August 5, 1916 but it was published some weeks later in The Suffragist, a weekly publication from the National Woman's Party. The woman in the cartoon obviously represents the Woman's Party while the Donkey is the long-time symbol of the Democratic Party. The woman's weapons are metaphors for the votes women represented and the title of the piece, ”Sic Semper Tyrannis”, means ”Thus Always to Tyrants.” The implication is that if Democrats kept their elitist attitude towards voting and did not work in favor of women's suffrage at the federal level, they would be forced into oblivion. (Prior to the 19th Ammendment's passage in 1919, women's voting rights were dictated at a state level, leading to a strange hodge-podge of voting laws across the country.)

I'm no expert on women's voting rights, far from it. I looked that up on Wikipedia just now. The portions about the cartoon itself came from that link to the Sewall-Belmont House & Museum, "one of the premier women's history sites in the country". It was Mike Rhode who tipped me off to its existence a couple weeks ago in one of the comment threads on my blog.

It turns out that the Museum is trying to preserve this large collection of cartoons from Allender, and are asking for donors to come forward to "adopt" a piece of art to help in their restoration. Rhode had a good write-up about the project from back in November. I've adopted the one I highlighted above.

I'm not big on women's voting history, as I said, but I am interested in comics. And while histories of comics of the early 20th century generally focus on the names you've probably heard of -- Outcault, McCay, Herriman... -- there are also plenty of folks like Allender and Carl Himmelman who did pieces with a smaller audience. Just like Charles Schulz and Jim Davis cast a long shadow over the folks who turned in niche cartoons to fanzines, the artists from those fanzines are worth looking at too.

So might I suggest that, when you do stumble across an Allender or Himmelman, do some investigation to find out who they are and what they did. You might find some interesting corner of comics history that might surprise you.

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