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Shaenon K. Garrity
This is where I write stuff.
Anne Cleveland and Jean Anderson 
21st-Jul-2006 11:31 am
A while back, there was a debate about why women don't get no respect in comics, like there always is, and a cartoonist by the name of Anne Cleveland came up. Basic summary: Anne Cleveland was a little-known cartoonist working from the 1930s to 1960s, starting with a series of cartoons about campus life drawn while she was a student at Vassar College (class of '37). She often worked with a collaborator, Jean Anderson, although it's unclear how they split the duties. It seems likely that Anderson was a writer only, but I have no confirmation on that. Besides her Vassar cartoons, Cleveland is best known for a humorous guide to postwar Japan called It's Better with Your Shoes Off.

Anyway, the online dustup got started with Heidi MacDonald demanding to know why gifted female cartoonists like Cleveland aren't better known, to which Tom Spurgeon basically replied that Anne Cleveland totally isn't all that. There was a scuffle, and some harsh words were probably exchanged, and eventually everyone settled back down and returned to important matters, like Frank Cho getting hired to draw Spider-Woman's ass. Why am I bringing the whole thing up again? Because, as it happens, I'm a Vassar alumnus (class of '00), and I happen to be a fan of the Cleveland/Anderson cartoons from way back. I really like this style of 1930s cartooning, and Cleveland's linework reminds me of Gluyas Williams, one of my particular favorites.

These cartoons are all scanned from the booklet Everything Correlates, first published in 1946. I also have another booklet, Vassar: A Second Glance. The booklets contain no information whatsoever about the cartoons or their creators, so I don't know if these were drawn while Cleveland and Anderson were students, or, if not, when, where, and why they first appeared. Cleveland also painted murals on the walls of the Vassar Alumnae House pub which were still there when I was a student, but I don't have pictures of those.

Anyway, for the curious, here are Anne Cleveland and Jean Anderson.

The building in the background is the campus library. You can also see it at the beginning of "The Muppets Take Manhattan." The building where the Muppets hold their senior revue is the campus dining hall.

"Euthenics" was Vassar's disturbing term for Home Economics. It was added as a department in the postwar era, when there was a big get-the-girls-back-to-the-kitchen movement in American society. Female college enrollment plummeted when the men came home, and one way schools like Vassar tried to cope was by selling homemaking as something that required an Ivy League (or at least a Seven Sisters) education. Euthenics hasn't been a major at Vassar for many years, and the beautiful old Euthenics building now houses a variety of departments that spun out of home ec (Psychology, Economics, Education), but the on-campus nursery school is still up and running.

As far as I know, the All-Girl Pagan Toga Dance is not actually a campus tradition, just something that happens a lot, usually when my parents were visiting. However, in the background you can see an actual Vassar tradition: the Daisy Chain, a group of sophomore girls chosen to carry a long garland of daisies at the seniors' graduation ceremony. I was nominated for Daisy Chain in my sophomore year but didn't get in.

21st-Jul-2006 07:28 pm (UTC)
Man, I should have started the traditional All-Girl Pagan Toga Dance. I could have asked your parents (well, your mom) to join in.
21st-Jul-2006 07:31 pm (UTC)
Yes, you should've. Not that my memories of vassar aren't coloful enough, but damn, that would've been cool!
21st-Jul-2006 07:35 pm (UTC)
Clearly I didn't get out of the dorm enough. I TOTALLY would have joined the All Girl Pagan Toga Dance Association (AGPTDA). Think we could get VSA approval?
21st-Jul-2006 07:37 pm (UTC)
Oooh! And VSA funding to buy said togas!

We could've been the Nightengale's dancing sister group!

Damn, talk about a missed opportunity.
21st-Jul-2006 08:21 pm (UTC)
Those are fabulous! Some of it reminds me of Alex Gregory's contemporary cartoons in the New Yorker.

I considered Vassar, Shaenon, but the pearls-and-flower-print wearing Dean and the million-dollar insured trees scared me away.
21st-Jul-2006 08:22 pm (UTC)
Gee, if they can still crack me up, what, sixty years later, with no familiarity whatsoever with Vassar, they might just be good work....;>

I love the one about the lust to kill.
21st-Jul-2006 08:33 pm (UTC)

Why yes, yes it has. Most frequently when discussing Tom Spurgeon, Frank Cho or Spider-Woman's ass.
(Deleted comment)
22nd-Jul-2006 12:06 am (UTC)

I got the two booklets I own from the Vassar campus bookstore around 2000 or so. I have no idea where else to get this stuff.
21st-Jul-2006 09:49 pm (UTC)
You win the day.

Those are FANTASTIC. Many of the girls could've been drawn at an indy comcis convention last week.

Spurge is clearly in the wrong. Bad Spurge!
21st-Jul-2006 10:57 pm (UTC)

I don't want to rag on Spurge at all. His point was that Cleveland's fairly small body of work doesn't really qualify as a great undiscovered treasure, with which I agree. But her work is really good, and it'd be great for more people to know about it. I really hope that the recent Art Out of Time book inspires more reprints of the offbeat gems of comicking history, because frankly that stuff often interests me more than the acknowledged classics.
22nd-Jul-2006 12:18 am (UTC)
"I don't want to rag on Spurge at all."

Well, damn, there go my plans for the afternoon. I guess it's back to strafing the old folks' home with incontinent pigeons for me. *sigh*
22nd-Jul-2006 12:55 am (UTC)
Hee hee hee. This is the sort of thing that needs to be brought into the public eye. Or possibly replace 'Family Circus' in newspapers as the single-panel comic of choice.
22nd-Jul-2006 05:39 am (UTC)
Heh- I really like these. I don't know if they're an undiscovered treasure or anything, but they're still great. If I'm ever around Vassar I'll have to see about picking up a booklet of them or something.
22nd-Jul-2006 07:49 am (UTC)
Those are good. I like the "Law of Gravity" one, the "Lust to Kill" one, and the "Low Frustration Tolerance" one the best.
22nd-Jul-2006 10:00 pm (UTC)
i do believe that your campus library's silhouette is the inverse of my campus library's silhouette. Maybe someone should stack them together and create a super-library!
23rd-Jul-2006 08:28 pm (UTC)
I took a look two days ago. I'm looking at it again, and it still reminds me of a huge snake, and not a garland. It might be caused by those pagans.
3rd-Nov-2008 09:06 pm (UTC)
Hi! I just wandered by-- Anne Cleveland is my grandmother.
4th-Nov-2008 01:14 am (UTC)

Oh wow! Do you think she would mind if I wrote to her?
4th-Nov-2008 03:56 am (UTC)
I think she would be bemused but pleased. I don't think she'll be up to writing back-- she's pretty frail these days-- but she will be interested. Message me privately and I'll send you an address?
5th-Nov-2008 07:20 pm (UTC)

I actually have her contact info through the Vassar alumnae society. I've just been too nervous to write to her.
6th-Nov-2008 09:46 pm (UTC)
Hmmm, I wonder if the alumnae society has the right address? It should go to West Linn, OR, and you should probably address it care of her daughter, Susan Whitcher.
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