‘It matters that we remember women’s history. Like so much art, women have taken a backseat. Now they are at the forefront and I am SO proud!’ Sandi Toksvig
This groundbreaking picture-led celebration of the work of over 100 named British artists, and a few more anonymous ones, reveals a wealth of women’s wit and insight spanning 250 years.
Based on an exhibition of the same name, held at the Cartoon Museum in 2017, this book edited by Nicola Streeten and Cath Tate demonstrates that women have always had a wicked sense of humour and a perceptive view of the world.
For many years, the world of cartoons and comics was seen as a male preserve. The reality is that women have been drawing and publishing cartoons for longer than most people realise. In the early 1760s, Mary Darly illustrated, wrote and published the first book on caricature drawing published in England, A Book of Caricaturas. In the nineteenth century, Britain’s first comic character, Ally Sloper, was developed by the actress and cartoonist Marie Duval (1847–1890). Cartoons were used by the suffragettes, and, during the Great War, artists such as Flora White and Agnes Richardson produced light-hearted propaganda comic postcards.
From the 1920s, a few women cartoonists began to appear regularly in newspapers. The practice was for artists to sign with their surname, so most readers were unaware of the cartoonist’s gender. In 1920, Mary Tourtel created Rupert Bear for the Daily Express, and nearly a hundred years later her character is still going strong. From the 1960s, feminism inspired cartoonists to question the roles assigned to them and address subjects such as patriarchy, equal rights, sexuality and child rearing, previously unseen in cartoons. Over the last thirty years, women have come increasingly to the fore in comics, zines and particularly graphic novels.
This wide-ranging curation of women’s comics work includes prints, caricatures, joke, editorial and strip cartoons, postcards, comics, zines, graphic novels and digital comics, covering all genres and topics. It addresses inclusion of art by women of underrepresented backgrounds.
Both the exhibition and book have been made possible by the generosity of Cath Tate Cards.
Michal Boncza, Morning Star31 March 2018
IF THERE'S a volume missing from the annals of British humour, it certainly is the new book The Inking Woman. About time too, given that it’s been nine decades since women over the age of 21 won the right to vote.
Its inspiration came from its authors Nicola Streeten and Cath Tate who organised an exhibition with the same title at the Cartoon Museum in London in 2016. The realisation that a celebratory anthology marking 250 years of women's cartooning should be put together was a natural progression.
This compilation of single-panel gags and traditional strips are bundled together to provide a full appreciation of the abundance and variety of styles. Here is work from the daring Mary Darly of the 18th century and the pioneering Victorian Marie Duval through to Suffragettes Mary Lowndes, Louisa Thomson-Price and Dora Meeson Coates.
And contemporary cartoonists such as Riana Duncan, Kathryn Lamb, Christine Roche, Paula Youens, Cath Jackson, Angela Martin, Grizelda and Lee Kennedy all get a look in.
The index, running to well over 300 names, disabuses the perception that women cartoonists are few and far between and around a third of them are included in the book. Space and time constraints mean that some are absent because they were uncomfortable with gender-defined criteria or the selection process itself.
The few newspaper editorial cartoons are by the Guardian’s Nicola Jennings, Bluelou — known to Morning Star readers and presently of Tribune — and Martha Richler of the Jewish Chronicle. Regrettably, the field is still dominated almost exclusively by white middle-aged men and that's something that has to change in the future.
As Toni Morrison has pointed out: “All good art is political, there is none that isn’t,” and so, ultimately, are the works in Inking Woman — wide ranging and whimsical satires on social and human vagaries and everyday idiocies.
The encyclopedic format has the benefit of each new page offering the unexpected and Marcia’s Mihotich’s delightful design has clarity and elegance.
It's an instructive and hugely entertaining work — hats off to Nicola Streeten and Cath Tate.View source
Stephen Holland, Page 4522 March 2018
Hands up, who knew that Rupert the Bear was created by a woman?
Okay, I see half a dozen of you there; and five of you are comicbook creators.
Can you name her? Rupert the Bear was created by Mary Tourtel in 1920, and drawn by Tourtel for fifteen years. Originally Rupert was brown, but the Daily Express cut back on printing expenses, hence the iconic white fur.
See? You will learn stuff. Oh, how you will learn stuff!
It's embracing, engaging, lavishly illustrated, clearly and cleverly structured with a commendable sense of context.View source
Joe Gordon, Forbidden Planet Blog21 March 2018
[The] placing of cartoonists and comickers into some historical context is evident right from the beginning, and I am pleased to say not just historical but cultural and societal context (for example, the rowing women’s lib movement of the 70s leading to more cooperatives creating publications, which in turn provides both material and a space for women comickers to show their work, those comic works feeding back into the growing social and commercial groups by women, aimed at women).
In her introduction co-editor Nicola Streeten mentions the likes of Jacky Fleming and Ros Aquith’s work that she read in her teens as powering her own ambitions in her comics work later on. I’d like to think that somewhere there is a teenage girl who will read Inking Woman and it will inspire her, to let her know she can create her own comics works too, and perhaps in a decade she’ll be citing Nicola and Cath’s work here as one of the starting points that got her going.
This is a wonderfully warm look at an important part of British comics history, it is also a history of the challenges of gender, class and more and how they can be overcome, of how the medium is part of that society and that societal change as well as reflecting it, or sometimes even leading the vanguard demanding that change, placing those changes and the changes still to come into a larger context of pioneers and inspirational creators in turn inspiring new generations to realise they are free to create, to say something. I think many readers will come away from this not just with a more informed perspective on the history of Brit comics, but with a list of creators whose work they really want to read.View source
Andy Oliver, Broken Frontier8 March 2018
The Inking Woman is an essential and long overdue recognition of the role, influence and importance of the women creators who have been instrumental in the evolution and forward momentum of this art form in the UK… It’s difficult to imagine that there will be a more vitally important book on the medium than this one in 2018. Indispensable and obligatory, The Inking Woman an absolute triumph on every level.View source
The Bookseller, Non-Fiction Pick for March 20188 December 2017
I’m a great admirer of Myriad’s graphic non-fiction list with books like Hole in the Heart and The Facts of Life. Now comes this terrific celebration of the work of over 100 British female graphic artists, and a few more anonymous ones, including prints, strip cartoons, postcards, zines, graphic novels and digital comics. It reveals a wealth of wit and wisdom spanning 250 years, from Mary Darly’s 1760s book on caricature drawing and Britain’s first comic character to the contemporary likes of Posy Simmonds, Una and Jacky Fleming. I can’t wait to get my hands on a finished copy.