Out later this month from Canadian publisher Mosaic Press is A History of Women Cartoonists by Mira Falardeau, which looks at the work of great women artists and their experiences in the industry to reveal advice and positive encouragement for future cartoonists.
Heavily illustrated with cartoons and artwork from many of the best in the field, History of Women Cartoonists also asks serious questions about why there have been so few women cartoonists in the field of visual humour – and if the digital age is opening more opportunities for female humorists in the future.
It’s an interesting question, and timely. During discussion of the New York Times decision to drop its political cartoons from its international edition (which has provoked an outcry, led by cartoonist Patrick Chappatte, picked up by journalists such as CNN’s Jake Tapper), cartoonist Lorna Miller pointed out that in the UK, “We’re not publishing enough women political cartoonists”. Not only that, but she stated the annual Best Political Cartoons anthology, which runs the only UK awards ceremony for political cartoons, has in the past actively refused to publish the work of female cartoonists. “Yvette Cooper MP read out all the excluded women,” she wrote on Twitter. “And there’s worse than that.”
(This year’s anthology, out in October, does include work by Nicola Jennings, alongside Martin Rowson and Steve Bell).
In an undated and uncredited article on the Political Cartoonist Society web site, the question is also posed – why is it that in the UK have we never had a full-time female political cartoonist on one of our national newspapers?
“It is hard to understand why there are still none in 21st century Britain,” says the author, noting some in the past, including Australian Ruby Lindsay, Punch cartoonist Sally Artz and Martha Richler, who worked under the gender-neutral sounding pseudonym ‘Marf’. In 2003, in an attempt to attract more female readers, she was employed to replace Patrick Blower on the Evening Standard by the paper’s then new female editor, Veronica Wadley.
(The Morning Star has female cartoonists, but they are unpaid so the Political Cartoon Society claims they do not qualify, also citing its circulation of just 10,000, stating it cannot be considered a national newspaper).
Mosaic Press says A History of Women Cartoonists is the first book to offer a truly global survey and analysis of the great women cartoonists of the last three decades – and a welcome addition to the history of comics and cartoons.
It sounds like it should nicely complement The Inking Woman: 250 Years of British Women Cartoon and Comic Artists by Nicola Streeten and Cath Tate, released last year by Myriad Editions, rather nicely.
Mira Falardeau has spent decades as an art historian, a specialist in visual humour, and is the author of several books and essays on cartoonists and their history. She was also a former cartoonist herself – among the first generation of women in her field during the 1970s and 1980s.
She has had her comic strips published in Châtelaine, Perspectives, Canadian Women Studies, La Vie en rose and Recherches Féministes. Her drawings have been exhibited in Art and Feminism at the Contemporary Art Museum in Montreal in 1981, Pork Roasts. 250 Feminist Cartoons (Vancouver, 1981), Women Cartoonists (Cartoonist Guild, New York, 1982), Radical Humor (New York University, 1983) and The Voice of Images, Feminists cartoons (Powerhouse Gallery, Montreal, 2017).
Mira lives in Quebec City, is the author of several books on the history of cartoonists, animators and political cartoonists in French and has served as a guest curator for several exhibitions at Le Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec in Quebec City and the National Library of Quebec in Montreal. Falardeau has taught “Visual Humour” and “Scriptwriting for Cartoons and Comics” at the Laval University in Quebec City and later taught at the University of Ottawa and in the Department of Cinema and Communication in the Cegep of Limoilou from 1997 to 2005.
• A History of Women Cartoonists by Mira Falardeau is on sale from 21st June 2019 and is available from all good book shops (using this Amazon Affiliate link helps support downthetubes, than you)
• Where are the Women Cartoonists? A report on a meeting on the issue during Women’s History Month last year organised by London Freelance – with Dr Nicola Streeten and Morning Star cartoonist Blue Lou
• Lorna Miller is online at cargocollective.com/lornamiller | Follow Lorna on Twitter @mistressofline
• Why are There no Women Cartoonists? a film made in 1991 by Cinders McLeod (www.cindersmcleod.com)
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