There is no doubt that during the early 1900s there was a large amount of sexism, especially towards women and their responsibilities, abilities, and their work. At the time there was no exception in the world of illustration. Women were not allowed to use nude models to practice their anatomy drawings, they could not get a job in any field unless they were closely related to a man who already had a place in the field, they were not even allowed to live together or even converse without the supervision of a man. Three women known as The Red Rose Girls broke all of those rules and became some of the most successful illustrators of their time.
The Red Rose Girls was a group of female illustrators made up of three women by the names of Jessie Willcox Smith, Elizabeth Shippen Green, and Violet Oakley. These women were some of the most successful female illustrators. Smith and Green enrolled into Howard Pyle’s Saturday Illustration class offered by the Drexel Institute where they met Oakley. They then started living together and they were then called the Red Rose Girls.
Although they were all very successful Jessie was the most successful of the group.
While the Red Rose Girls lived together in their own home, they were accompanied by another woman named Henrietta Cozen. She was someone who helped them take care of things around the house which they were very grateful for. Henrietta wrote an essay in 1929 called A Room of One’s Own in which Virginia Woolf, a 20th-century english writer, states “Women could achieve eminence if given equal educational opportunity, Financial Independence, and privacy. The book suggests that if Woolf had known of the Red Rose Girls then she might have added to that list “the opportunity to collaborate” for it was the fact that they lived together that gave them the freedom from not just their domestic responsibilities as women but their ability to separate themselves from the world that helped them achieve what they had.
I think the Red Rose Girls were and still are some of the most inspirational women artists. They found their own successes independently without the help of anyone. They became some of the most famous illustrators of their time despite the academy’s rules of how women were meant to gain success.
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