Graphic Arts | Rare Books and Special Collections | Princeton University Library
Unseen Hands: Women Printers, Binders and Book Designers    
      thumbnail gallery   Name   Occupation   Timeline  


Elizabeth Shippen Green, American, 1871-1954
Violet Oakley, American, 1874-1961
Jessie Willcox Smith, American, 1863-1935

These three women, who styled themselves the Red Rose Girls after a picturesque inn in Villanova where they lived and worked together, were phenomenally successful during what has been termed the "golden age of illustration in America." A very short list of their notable achievements would include Elizabeth Shippen Green's exclusive contract with Harper's Magazine, for which she designed hundreds of covers and interiors over a twenty-three year period. Violet Oakley was awarded a commission in 1902 to paint eighteen murals in the new Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg, the first time an American woman artist had been given such a prestigious public commission. Jesse Willcox Smith became famous for her idealized pictures of children and domestic life in Collier's, Harper's, Ladies Home Journal, and Scribner's magazines, among many others. In addition she illustrated more than forty popular books, among them Dickens's Children, shown here.

The fourth member of the Red Rose Girls was Henrietta Cozens. Cozens was not an artist, but gardened, cooked, and managed the household for the other three. Living together in their extended and unconventional family liberated these women to some extent from domestic distractions, while the supportive environment they allowed each other encouraged and sustained them in creating a world where art and life were inseparable.

The Book of the Child [Frontispiece], by Elizabeth Shippen Green and Jessie Willcox Smith
Title page
The Book of the Child [title page], by Elizabeth Shippen Green and Jessie Willcox Smith

The Book of the Child was originally designed by Green and Smith as a calendar. It was so successful that it was republished, with a sentimental text by the popular author Mabel Humphrey.

The Book of the Child, Mabel Humphrey, New York: Frederick A. Stokes, 1903. Graphic Arts Division. Gift of Mrs. Willard Thorp


Dickens Children, by Jessie Willcox Smith

"Little Em’ly,” from Dickens’s Children, Ten Drawings, by Jessie Willcox Smith. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1912.
Graphic Arts Division

Other works in the exhibition:

  • An Old Country House, by Richard Le Gallienne, illustrated by Elizabeth Shippen Green. New York and London: Harper & Brothers, 1902.
    Rare Books Division, Collection of J. Harlin O’Connell, Class of 1914, English Literature of the 1890’s, presented by Patricia O’Connell Matisse

Princeton University Library, Graphic Arts Collection
Rebecca W. Davidson, Curator of Graphic Arts
Tel: (609) 258-3197
Last Modified: March 10, 2004