Rose O’Neill was a prolific artist, illustrator and writer. She was self-taught beginning with drawing then later learning to paint as magazines and newspaper introduced color in their publications. The first publication in which Rose used color was Truth magazine. Other publications included Puck, Cosmopolitan, Ladies Home Journal, and Good Housekeeping. The women’s magazines enjoyed her color works as seen in her covers and interior art.
Among some of the innovations Rose created was the first cartoon strip by a woman, “The Old Subscriber Calls” that appeared in Truth magazine on September 19, 1896. “The Kewpies and the Little Browns,” which appeared in Women’s Home Companion, was a significant contribution as it was the first cartoon to address racial issues. Rose also made racism a topic in Puck magazine where she worked from the late 1890 to 1907.
Rose created her first Kewpies as cartoons that appeared in the Ladies Home Journal in 1909. These humorous stories were meant for children, but followed by adults as well. Ultimately, the cartoons helped children learn to read and memorize, which greatly delighted Rose. The Kewpies were first published in Ladies Home Journal, then in Women’s Home Companion, and most importantly in Good Housekeeping. The cartoons started in 1909 and continued on and off in magazines and newspaper until 1937.
Rose also is known as the creator of the first cutout paper doll with both a back and a front.
Cosmopolitan January 1900