Missouri Women """ ^ket-
Rose O'Neill, illustrator, poet, novelist and sculptress, is best remembered as the originator of the Kewpies.
From 1901 until 1928 drawings of the
roly-poly, top-knotted little figures,
with verses to chronicle their exploits,
were published serially in turn by
four national women's magazines.
They appealed to all ages and a Kew-
pie "craze" resulted. Four Kewpie
books, Kewpie Kutouts (paper dolls),
and German-made bisque Kewpie
dolls enhanced their creator's fame
and fortune. The idea for the Kewpies came to Rose at Bonniebrook, her Missouri
home in the Ozark hills, soon after separation from her second husband,
Harry Leon Wilson, best-selling author.
Rose O'Neill was born June 25, 1874, in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, and
educated in New York. Her father, an intellectual Irishman, concerned with
books and publishing, retired with his family to the Ozark wilderness in 1893
and built a log-cabin home which he named Bonniebrook. Rose first visited
Bonniebrook in 1896. Soon afterward, she married Gray Latham, son of a University of Virginia professor, and continued her New York career as illustrator
for Life and Puck. In 1901 she was divorced, and the following year married
Wilson, then literary editor of Puck. During this marriage she published her
first novel and illustrated several of Wilson's more famous works.
Through the years she wrote and illustrated four novels and a book of
verse. Her allegorical pictures (monster drawings) were exhibited in Paris and
New York and her most famous statue, "The Embrace of the Tree," was
exhibited at the Academy of Arts, Paris.
Although she presided over a center of old-world culture at her villa on the
Isle of Capri, a studio in New York which served as a rendezvous for celebrities
in the arts, and "Carabas Castle," a Connecticut country home, she often
longed for Bonniebrook, with its "ragged rascal beauty."
In 1936 she brought her world treasures to Bonniebrook, then a 14-room
rambling frame home, where she worked and lived until her death in 1944. At
work she wore rose or wine-colored velvet flowing robes over Grecian-style
gowns of peach silk. These robes were often referred to as her "aura." O'Neill
memorabilia are displayed in the Shepherd of the Hills Museum, Branson, and
the School of the Ozarks Museum, Hollister.