Tag Archives: publishing

Women’s History Month 2012: Betita Martínez

14 Mar

Today we honor and celebrate noted author, historian, and life-long social justice worker Betita Martínez. Elizabeth Martínez was born in 1925 in Washington, DC. She graduated from Swarthmore College in 1946 with a degree in English. She has worked for Simon & Schuster as an editor and for The Nation Magazine as Books and Arts Editor. She has written numerous books and articles on different topics relating to social movements in the Americas. Her best-known work is the bilingual 500 years of Chicano History in Pictures, which later formed the basis for the educational video ¡Viva la Causa! 500 Years of Chicano History.

Martínez began her political work in the early 1950s, working for the United Nations Secretariat as a researcher on colonialism and decolonization in Africa. During the 1960s, she worked with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the South and as a coordinator of its New York office. In 1968, she moved to New Mexico to start a newspaper to support the Alianza Federal de Mercedes, co-founding the bilingual movement newspaper El Grito del Norte with with lawyer Beverly Axelrod.

Since moving to the Bay Area in 1976, Martínez has organized around Latino community issues, taught Women’s studies part-time, conducted anti-racist training workshops, and worked with youth groups. She has received many awards from student, community, and academic organizations, including Scholar of the Year 2000 from the National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies. In 1997, she and Phil Hutchings co-founded the Institute for MultiRacial Justice,which “aims to strengthen the struggle against white supremacy by serving as a resource center to help build alliances among peoples of color and combat divisions.”She is also an advisor to the Catalyst Project, an anti-racist political education organization that focuses on white communities.

Martínez continues her activism in her 80s, including many events training and encouraging future generations of organizers and activists. It’s quite telling that one of her biggest fans is Angela Davis, who has described this amazing woman as “inimitable … irrepressible … indefatigable.”


Women’s History Month 2012: Edwina Dumm

13 Mar

Today we honor and celebrate the first full-time female editorial cartoonist, Edwina Dumm. Born in Ohio in 1893, Frances Edwina Dumm’s father was an actor turned newspaperman, inspiring her interest in publishing. After completing high school in 1911, she pursued a correspondence course from the Landon School of Illustration and Cartooning. Her skill and fame became such that the school featured her in its later advertisements.

She drew editorial cartoons for the Columbus Daily Monitor from its first edition (August 7, 1915) until the paper folded (July 1917). Her Spot-Light Sketches was a full-page feature of editorial cartoons, and some of these promoted women’s issue and was influential in the suffrage movement. Dumm also drew The Meanderings of Minnie, a semi-autobiographical strip about a tomboy and her dog. Moving to New York City, she continued her art studies at the Art Students League and created Cap Stubbs and Tippie, syndicated by the George Matthew Adams Service. When the George Matthew Adams Service went out of business in the 1940s, Dumm’s strip was picked up by King Features Syndicate. Dumm continued to write and draw Tippie until her 1966 retirement (which brought the strip to an end).

Dumm worked very fast, reputedly penciling a daily strip in an hour. In the late 1940s, she drew the covers for sheet music by her roommate, Helen Slater, who did both music and lyrics. During the 1940s, she also contributed features to the Wonder Woman comic book. She was a recipient of the National Cartoonists Society Gold Key Award in 1978. After she retired from her comic strip, she remained active with watercolor paintings, photography and helping the elderly at her New York City apartment building when she was well into her eighties. She died in Manhattan in 1990.

Women’s History Month 2012: Dale Messick

3 Mar

Today we honor and celebrate a pioneer in women’s history whose legacy includes the creation of another feminist icon. Dalia Messick was born in Indiana in 1906. She had a passion for drawing and briefly attended art school, leaving to pursue a paying job in the field. She worked for greeting card companies, sending money home to help support her family during the Great Depression. She was interested in writing and drawing a comic strip, but there was a strong industry bias against female cartoonists. She assembled a mighty portfolio but had little success.

Frustrated, she changed her working name to the more gender-neutral “Dale” and began promoting a new strip. With the help of another woman, Mollie Slott, who was an influential assistant  at the New York Daily News, she managed to get her creation into Sunday publication. That strip, eventually the longest-running female created syndicated comic, was Brenda Starr.

Brenda was a feisty, fashionable reporter. Gaining prominence in the early 40s as many women were entering the workforce for the first time, she became one of a handful of icons for the burgeoning working women movement. While certainly interested in her romantic pursuits and pursuers, Brenda was an independent woman proud of her career.

Messick worked on other strips (including a stint on Perry Mason) but nothing matched the success of Brenda Starr, Reporter. At its height (in the late 50s), the strip was syndicated in over 250 newspapers, making it one of the most widely-distributed strips of the day. Messick wrote and drew the strip for forty years, retiring in 1980. Interestingly, she handed it over to another comics pioneer, DC artist Ramona Fradon, who helped create two long-standing characters, Aqualad and Metamorpho. The strip continued for decades with a handful of artists and writers until ending in January 2011 with Brenda’s retirement from the paper.

Dale Messick remained active in retirement. She attended comic conventions and other events and was always happy to talk about her role (and Brenda’s) in the women’s movement. She created Granny Glamour, a strip about senior citizens, for a local magazine and continued to draw a variety of projects until she suffered a stroke in 1998. She died in 2005 at age 98, leaving behind an impressive legacy including numerous industry awards.

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