Shaenon Garrity takes a look at the history of her fellow Vassar alum Anne Cleveland:
So who was Anne Cleveland? Hardly anyone remembers. In addition to drawing cartoons about Vassar life, she published It’s Better with Your Shoes Off, a lovely and very out-of-print collection of Gluyas Williams-esque cartoons about Americans living in Japan. A Vassar girl, a cartoonist, and a proto-weeaboo; could I choose a more perfect role model? I think not. And so, this summer, when I returned to the Vassar campus for the first time since graduation, I tracked down all public evidence of Anne Cleveland.
This is sort of gratifying to me, since I made a bit of a stink about Anne Cleveland a few years ago, in a post on the Old Beat, now removed, but archived a bit here by Garrity. My point then was not that Cleveland was a lost seminal genius of cartooning, but quite the opposite — she was a talented and somewhat successful female cartoonist whose name had been completely lost to the sands of time in the great lost era between Rose O’Neill and Julie Doucet, and how women of her level of achievement were almost always lost to the sands of time, leaving those who come behind to have to reinvent the wheel over and over again.
I was struck again by this, though, when reading a short bit on the Comics Reporter this morning:
By the way — Sean T. Collins noted to me in conversation that Art Out of Time has led to something like a half-dozen books or future book projects, which will likely add to its reputation over the years as an important book.
Art Out of Time: Unknown Comics Visionaries 1900-1969 is a wondrous collection of obscure and little-recognized cartoonists or roughly the O’Neill to Doucet Era, give or take 15 years on the modern end, and all 29 artists within are men, a fact that author Dan Nadel has had to defend several times, but, to his credit, he always sticks to his guns. At the Post Bang Symposium back in June, in a panel with Nadel and museum curator John Carlin, Nadel mentioned how canons were inherently limiting and many cartoonists awaited discovery. But he also said that no women cartoonists of the period made the cut of cartoonists who should be rediscovered because their work wasn’t on a high enough level.
This thought always depresses me no end. Women artists of the period were talented enough — they made up their share of the greatest illustrators of the era — but comics were a dead end for that talent, whether through social forces (i.e. “sexism,” whatever that is), inherent lack of interest, or other even more mysterious forces.
My personal inquiry remains ongoing.