Thursday, October 18, 2012

"I LIKE PIES!" A historical comic by Ellen Lindner

Nell Brinkley and Evelyn Thaw cartoon in Bitch Magazine

A few months ago my housemate Bobbie handed me a copy of Bitch Magazine, open to a cartoon. "Check this out--it's about pies," she said. It clearly was, given the big block letters reading "I LIKE PIES" across the bottom of the comic, but it also depicted the meeting of two prominent women of the 20th century--the cartoonist Nell Brinkley, and Evelyn Thaw, née Nesbit, the wife of tycoon Harry Thaw, who was on trial for the death of architect Stanford White (who by the way, designed the addition to Rokeby). The two women met in 1908 at the New York City Jail--Nell, who drew for the Hearst newspapers, was charged with doing a story about Evelyn, who had been told by her lawyers to win the court's sympathy. When Nell asked her to talk about things she liked, rather than her misfortune, Evelyn responded, "I love oysters Rockefeller, teal on toast, baked Alaska, but most of all "I like pies!" That quote appeared as the headline on the next day's paper, and Nell's coverage of the Thaw trial made her famous. Evelyn, however, was sadly left destitute when her husband was declared insane.

That cartoon on the back cover of Bitch, was drawn by the talented cartoonist Ellen Lindner. I tracked her down via the magic of the interwebs, and asked if I might feature it on the pie blog. In giving her permission, she shared a few other tidbits about her research and drawing process. Ellen first came upon the work of Nell Brinkley when she was working on a piece for Paul Gravett's 1001 Comics to Read Before You Die. In regards to Nell, Ellen says, "She's a massive heroine of mine--someone who took on the big boys of the cartooning world back when it was a bit odd for women to be working, let alone splashing their names all over the country's newspapers." 

Ellen conducted the research for this story at the New York Public Library's Picture Collection in Mid-Manhattan, and has some additional sketches for the piece on her blog. I recommend you take a look at more of Ellen's work on her website, and check out her periodical The Strumpet (and their Kickstarter for pre-orders...only 4 more days to go!), "a words and pictures periodical uniting lady comix stars of the one cartoony package." COOL! I'm glad that I got united with this present-day lady comix star though a lady comix star of the past...and pie.

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