Vintage Black Glamour: Pioneering cartoonist Zelda “Jackie” Ormes
Pioneering cartoonist Zelda “Jackie” Ormes. Born to a well-to-do family in Pittsburgh in 1911, Ormes created popular cartoon and comics series like Torchy Brown and Candy, that appeared in African American newspapers like the Pittsburgh Courier and the Chicago Defender from 1937 to 1956. Her cartoon Patty-Jo ‘n Ginger inspired the creation of the Patty-Jo doll, an upscale, brown-skinned doll that was a direct contrast to the black dolls of the day that depicted black children as raggedy “picaninnies.” Jackie Ormes herself said, “No more… Sambos… Just KIDS!“
[caption id=”” align=”alignnone” width=”250” caption=”Patty-Jo ‘n Ginger comic by Jackie Ormes. The caption reads: “Gosh—Thanks if you’re beggin’ for me—But how’s about getting our rich Uncle Sam to put good public schools all over so we can be trained fit for any college?” “][/caption]
[caption id=”” align=”alignnone” width=”250” caption=”“Patty-Jo ‘n Ginger,” a 1940s comic strip by Jackie Ormes, a rare female cartoonist of the day. The cartoon depicted middle class Patty Jo and her little sister Ginger in various slice-of-life situations - a sharp contrast to persistent negative images that often appeared in the media. “Patty-Jo ‘n Ginger” began appearing exclusively in the Pittsburgh Courier in 1946.”][/caption]
Pick up Nancy Goldstein’s wonderful book, Jackie Ormes: The First African-American Woman Cartoonist, to learn even more about Ms. Ormes. According to Ms. Goldstein, people who knew Jackie Ormes say that she modeled some of her characters after herself, beautifully dressed and outspoken about issues of the day. Ms. Ormes was one of many artists who were investigated by the House of Un-American activities during the McCarthy era. She also led a very full, interesting social life in Chicago and was friendly with celebrities like Eartha Kitt and Duke Ellington. She died in 1985.