Rose Cecil O’Neill
Artist, Suffragist, Author, Poet, Sculptor, Activist —
Rose Cecil O’Neill was born June 25, 1874 in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania. In 1893, her family homesteaded a beautiful piece of land, nine miles north of Branson, Missouri, which she named Bonniebrook.
As America’s first female cartoonist, O’Neill’s prolific and unique artwork ran the gamut of expression, being both political and charming, and won her the distinction of being among the most sought after female artists during a career that spanned over fifty years.
Her art addressed social issues of family struggles, literacy, romance, racism, politics, suffrage, discrimination and poverty. The inspiration for the farmers and Ozarks cabin folk, depicted in some of her art, was from Bonniebrook neighbors.
O’Neill was among the first women admitted to prestigious art societies in Paris and New York.
In her Bonniebrook art studio, O‘Neill created the Kewpie character that first appeared in 1909 in her illustrated stories for the Ladies Home Journal. She became a self-made millionaire when the Kewpie doll became a world-wide sensation. With this wealth, O’Neill generously supported family, friends, and all others whose plight came to her attention.
O’Neill’s published work includes four novels, eight children’s books, a book of poetry, numerous short stories, and poems.
As a member of the National Woman Suffrage Association, O’Neill’s notoriety garnered attention for suffrage campaigns 1915-1918 with her illustrations on posters, flyers, post cards, and other advertising. An outspoken suffrage activist, she committed herself whole-heartedly to appearing in parades, trips to Washington D.C., rallies, and fund-raising projects.
She considered Bonniebrook to be her true home and repeatedly proclaimed, “Bonniebrook is my favorite place on earth.”
O’Neill passed away April 6, 1944 in Springfield, Missouri and is buried in the family cemetery at Bonniebrook.