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Drawn to Purpose - American Women Illustrators and Cartoonists

Drawn to Purpose

American Women Illustrators and Cartoonists

By Martha H. Kennedy
Foreword by Carla D. Hayden
Hardcover : 9781496815927, 255 pages, 250 color illustrations, February 2018

A study of the immense artistic achievements of women in American illustration


Winner of the 2019 Eisner Award for the Best Comics-Related Book

Published in partnership with the Library of Congress, Drawn to Purpose: American Women Illustrators and Cartoonists presents an overarching survey of women in American illustration, from the late nineteenth into the twenty-first century. Martha H. Kennedy brings special attention to forms that have heretofore received scant notice—cover designs, editorial illustrations, and political cartoons—and reveals the contributions of acclaimed cartoonists and illustrators, along with many whose work has been overlooked.

Featuring over 250 color illustrations, including eye-catching original art from the collections of the Library of Congress, Drawn to Purpose provides insight into the personal and professional experiences of eighty women who created these works. Included are artists Roz Chast, Lynda Barry, Lynn Johnston, and Jillian Tamaki. The artists' stories, shaped by their access to artistic training, the impact of marriage and children on careers, and experiences of gender bias in the marketplace, serve as vivid reminders of social change during a period in which the roles and interests of women broadened from the private to the public sphere.

The vast, often neglected, body of artistic achievement by women remains an important part of our visual culture. The lives and work of the women responsible for it merit much further attention than they have received thus far. For readers who care about cartooning and illustration, Drawn to Purpose provides valuable insight into this rich heritage.


"The US Library of Congress has teamed with the University Press of Mississippi to publish a new book surveying the (often neglected) artistic achievements of women in cartooning and illustration. Featuring more than 250 color illustrations, comic strips, and political cartoons, as well as original artwork from the Library of Congress collections, Drawn to Purpose presents a comprehensive look at the contributions of American women in these fields from the late-nineteenth to the twenty-first century, compiled by Martha H. Kennedy, curator of popular and applied graphic art."

- Mercedes Milligan, Animation Magazine

"Kennedy’s title, and the text as a whole, underscore that these artists and their works are purposeful, and although Kennedy generously expands the notion of purpose to include, ‘to tell stories, to entertain, to cause laughter, to enlighten, to persuade, to assert opinion, to earn a living,’ the pun of being ‘drawn to purpose’ emphasizes the determination of these women to make their artistic voices heard so that others may benefit from their wit and wisdom no matter the odds. What a boon, then, is Martha Kennedy's new text, Drawn to Purpose: American Women Illustrators and Cartoonists!"

- Alisia G. Chase, International Journal of Comic Art

"Drawn to Purpose is an eclectic survey of women cartoonists' creations from many decades, a potent reminder of women's longstanding contributions to cartooning. . . . It's a dazzling, exhaustive and superlative—not to mention long overdue—examination of an important area of cartooning scholarship."

- Tom Heintjes, Hogan's Alley

"Illuminating the illustration and comics work of eighty American women, Martha H. Kennedy’s Drawn to Purpose remaps an expansive, multigenre lineage of women’s illustration and cartooning from Golden Age illustrators to graphic novelists to courtroom documentarians. Kennedy’s consistent, careful attention to how women created community and navigated the gendered conditions of doing their work sets her survey apart from those that might merely install women’s work into preexisting canons and histories."

- Rachel R. Miller, Inks: The Journal of the Comics Studies Society