1910 (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
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syndicated cartoon, still-life painting
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|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|The "first syndicated female African-American cartoonist, and the
cartoonist who did the most toward overcoming the stereotypes found in
comic strips before the mid-1960s", (Swann) Zelda Ormes, also known as
was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her father was an artist
and was an influence on her career choice and development of art
talent. Ormes' depiction of black women was that of strong and
persons and not the usual servant-girl types. She said: "I
liked dreamy little women who can't hold their own." (aalbc)|
Her first syndicated job
was in 1939 with the Pittsburgh Courier, a black community newspaper, and one of her first assignments was coverage of the Joe Lewis and John Henry Louis heavyweight fight. She moved
on to do cartoons for the Courier, the first featuring Torchy Brown,
which was a
full-page color feature syndicated to fourteen other black-readership
newspapers. Torchy was a strong minded, intelligent female who
stood up to injustices and racism, and she was also feminine and
sensuous. In fact, soldiers used Torchy as a pin-up girl. "Nowadays, newspapers are full of strong, serious black
women — not just on the comics page, but on the front page as well —
and Torchy Brown is practically forgotten. But in an era of
pickaninnies and mammies, she stood as a role model for her younger
sisters, showing them they had better options." (Toonopedia)
In 1942, she moved to Chicago to work for the Chicago Defender,
but this job did not utilize her art talents. Then in 1946, she did Patty Jo'n Ginger,
because of the widespread popularity of the comic strip, Patty Jo paper
are now collectors' items. These dolls were designed and marketed by
Ormes, who was herself a doll collector and a member of the Chicago
Chapter of the United Federation of Doll Clubs. Her doll
collection grew to 150.
During her 30-year career, she produced four separate comic strips: Torchy Brown in Dixie to Harlem, Candy, Torchy Brown Heartbeats and Patty Jo 'N' Ginger.
Ormes was also a painter of floral still lifes.
She suffered severe arthritis towards the end of her life, and died in Chicago on January 2, 1986.
Swann auction catalogue, African-American Fine Art, February 6, 2007
African-American Book Club: http://aalbc.com/authors/zelda.htm
African-American Registry: www.aaregistry.com/african_american_history/2005/Jackie_Ormes
|** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at registrar@AskART.com.|