Tuesday, July 24, 2018

From the Dick Buchanan Files: Women Cartoonists: Barbara Shermund, Hilda Terry, Mary Gibson and Dorothy McKay 1935 - 1952

In honor of the "Funny Ladies" Society of Illustrators show's opening reception July 26th, here are some gag cartoons by women.

The cartoons are curated by Dick Buchanan. The title is "These Women," which acknowledges the title of Gregory d'Alessio's syndicated panel. Thanks for all your hard work, and take it away, Dick!



1935 – 1952

Women cartoonists have contributed to American Humor for decades. However, it was never an easy road for the female cartoonist. For instance, Dalia Messick (creator of Brenda Starr) found it necessary to use her nickname “Dale” in order to skirt the discrimination she encountered at the hands of biased editors. Cartoonist Dorothy McKay was once arrested in New York’s Grand Central Terminal for the high crime of sketching.

Despite the obstacles, some women cartoonists did manage to overcome discrimination to earn a place in the gag cartoon field.

Founded in 1946, the National Cartoonist’s Society at first was an all male organization. In 1949 Gregory d’Alessio nominated his wife, Hilda Terry, for admittance in the Society. Hilda Terry’s witty letter, suggesting the organization should be called the National Men’s Cartoonists Society was a benchmark in the struggle to include women in the organization. Only after considerable heated debate, including some member’s assertion that including women would hinder their proclivity to swear, Hilda Terry, Barbara Shermund and Edwina Dumm were admitted the following year.

We have delved into the Cartoon Clip File and selected some of the cartoons drawn by four prominent women cartoonists of the mid-century era. Barbara Shermund, Hilda Terry, Mary Gibson and Dorothy McKay appear in this collection. Other women cartoonists will certainly appear in future installments.

For the best telling of women cartoonist’s story, we highly recommend cartoonist Liza Donnelly’s insightful book, FUNNY LADIES: The New Yorker’s Greatest Women Cartoonists (Prometheus Books, 2005).


Barbara Shermund’s career began in the mid-1920’s, her drawings appearing in The New Yorker, Life, Judge, among others. In the mid-forties she ceased her New Yorker work but remained a major cartoonist, continuing to appear most famously in Esquire and Pictorial Revue. Pictorial Revue was a newspaper Sunday supplement originating in Chicago and distributed by King Features Syndicate. She illustrated many Pictorial covers and her weekly feature “Shermund’s Sallies” was a staple of the publication.

1. Collier’s January 8, 1938.

2. Collier’s December 13, 1939.

3. Collier’s May 28, 1938.

4. Pictorial Revue, January 16,1949.


Theresa Hilda d’Allessio, better known as Hilda Terry, began her career in the mid 1930’s when she drew two cartoons to submit in a newspaper cartoon contest, one a sports cartoon and the other a funny cartoon. The funny cartoon won and launched her successful gag-cartooning career. Her nationally syndicated cartoon featuring teenage girls, “It’s A Girl’s Life” first appeared December 7, 1941, becoming the panel cartoon “Teena” in 1944, and ran until 1964. Terry also was a pioneer in early computer animation, creating the first animated scoreboards for major league baseball stadiums. The National Cartoonists Society recognized her work in 1979 when she received their Animation award. Terry was also a longtime instructor at the Art Students League well into her eighties and nineties.

1. The Saturday Evening Post December 28, 1940.

2. American Magazine December, 1942.

3. The Saturday Evening Post August 8, 1942.

4. American Magazine March, 1942.


Mary Gibson’s drawings appeared in The New Yorker and but more frequently Collier’s, American Magazine, The Saturday Evening Post and Liberty. Unfortunately, not much is known about her life, but her drawings remain a testament to her substantial artistic talent.

1. Collier’s July 12, 1947.

2. Collier’s October 11, 1947.

3. American Magazine March, 1952.

4. Collier’s February 17, 1951.


Dorothy McKay arrived in New York from San Francisco in the 1930’s. At first she worked as a secretary by day and at night studied at the Art Student’s League with the hope of becoming an illustrator. This goal was not realized as she felt editors did not take her seriously so she became a cartoonist. She appeared in the first issue of Esquire. They accepted 18 of her cartoons from a single batch—quite likely a cartooning record.

1. Life August, 1935.

2. Collier’s September 25, 1937.

3. Collier’s February 26, 1949.

4. Esquire August, 1945.


Dick Buchanan’s Cartoon Clip File

Greenwich Village, NY

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