The Incomparable Rose O'Neill

The inspiring true story of women’s rights and Kewpie Dolls.

Heather Monroe

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Rose O’Neill ca 1900, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

Rose O’Neill was a suffragette of renowned beauty and a self-taught artist. At a young age, Rose gained notoriety illustrating popular books and magazines of her time. Before long, Rose was the highest paid, and youngest, women in the business. But she is not known well for this. Her most famed accomplishment is her invention of the beloved Kewpie Doll.

GROWING UP

On June 25, 1874, Rose Cecil O’Neill was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Her father was William Patrick Henry. Her mother was Alice Cecilia Asenath Senia Smith O’Neill, but everyone called her “Meemie.” She had two sisters named Lee and Callista, and three brothers called Hugh, James, and Clarence.

Rose descended from a long line of art lovers of all types; her father sold books, and her mother was a gifted musician, actress, and teacher. In her youth, Rose traveled with her family by wagon to rural Nebraska, where she spent her formative years. Her family supported one another fiercely in their artistic endeavors.

Rose was something of a prodigy. She entered and won a drawing contest for the Omaha World-Herald when she was thirteen. Rose left Nebraska for Manhattan at the tender age of 19 and sold her first novel, The Loves of Edwy. But the publishers were most interested in the portfolio of illustrations she showed them.

Rose O’Neill, circa 1907, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

Before long, Rose received commissions for her drawings, and her career as a professional illustrator gained fast momentum. Her artwork appeared in popular magazines such as Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, and Woman’s Home Companion. Rose also drew short comics for Puck Magazine, a humorous publication.

BONNIEBROOK

Rose was garnering attention, fame, and money in New York. Her family decided to move from Nebraska to Missouri where they lived on a homestead in the Ozarks of Taney County, Missouri. Rose was enchanted with the mountains, woods, and streams at the farm, and christened the place “Bonniebrook.”

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Heather Monroe

Welcome readers! Heather Monroe is a genealogist and writer who resides in California with her partner and their nine children. •True Crime• History• Memoir•