Trailblazing Illustrator, Elizabeth Shippen Green

Elizabeth Shippen Green
Eliz­a­beth Ship­pen Green

Younger read­ers may not ful­ly appre­ci­ate how dif­fi­cult it was for women to break into the high­ly com­pet­i­tive field of illus­tra­tion. For many years, men were rou­tine­ly hired for adver­tis­ing art, news­pa­per and mag­a­zine illus­tra­tion, and children’s book illustration. 

Eliz­a­beth Ship­pen Green, born in 1871 and dying in 1954, was one of the ear­li­est female illus­tra­tors to win high regard, help­ing to open the door a lit­tle wider for the women who fol­lowed her,

Her father was an artist-cor­re­spon­dent dur­ing the Civ­il War. He encour­aged her to study art, sup­port­ing her as she attend­ed var­i­ous art schools.

Elizabeth Shippen GreenShe stud­ied with Thomas Anshutz, Robert Von­noh, Thomas Eakins, and Howard Pyle. “She cred­it­ed Pyle with teach­ing her the impor­tance of visu­al­iz­ing, then real­iz­ing, the dra­mat­ic moment key to illus­trat­ing a nar­ra­tive text.” (Library of Congress)

While study­ing with Pyle at the Brandy­wine School, Eliz­a­beth met Jessie Will­cox Smith and Vio­let Oak­ley. The three of them became fast friends, sup­port­ive of each oth­er’s careers in illus­tra­tion. They moved into The Red Rose Inn in Vil­lano­va, Penn­syl­va­nia, with Hen­ri­et­ta Coz­ens as their housekeeper.

The Five Little PigsLat­er, they moved to Cogslea in the Mount Airy neigh­bor­hood of Philadel­phia. Because of their res­i­dence togeth­er, they were referred to ever after as The Red Rose Girls. These three and sev­er­al oth­er women formed The Plas­tic Club, meant to encour­age one anoth­er professionally. 

Eliz­a­beth was one of the most rec­og­nized illus­tra­tors in the coun­try because of her assign­ments for St. Nicholas Mag­a­zine, Woman’s Home Com­pan­ion, The Sat­ur­day Evening Post, and a 23-year exclu­sive con­tract with Harper’s Mag­a­zine. In 1922, she illus­trat­ed a beau­ti­ful edi­tion of Tales from Shake­speare by Charles and Mary Lamb.

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Read more about Eliz­a­beth Ship­pen Green:

The Red Rose Girls: an Uncom­mon Sto­ry of Art and Love, by Alice A. Carter

By a Woman’s Hand: Illus­tra­tors of the Gold­en Age, ed. by Mary Car­olyn Wal­drep, Dover Fine Art

Nation­al Muse­um of Amer­i­can Illustration

Library of Con­gress, “A Petal from the Rose” exhibit

Some of her work in the Library of Con­gress’ collection

Amer­i­can Art Archives, show­ing some of her adver­tis­ing art

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Cathy Ballou Mealey
6 years ago

Loved this fea­ture! Thank you for the list of resources. I look for­ward to read­ing more about her work.