Etta Hulme, Political Cartoonist

31 May 2002

   Cartooning has traditionally been considered a career for men, with women only occasionally breaking into the line-up. Etta Hulme took up the challenge of adding her flavour of fine drawing, irony and all-around funny view of the landscape of politics, becoming one of the small number of women in political cartooning in the 1950s.

    The artistic journey began in Texas for Etta Hulme. She attended the University of Texas at Austin, earning a degree in Fine Art. She made immediate use of her training by landing a job in a Disney animation studio in California.

    Etta worked in animation for two years. She returned to Texas where she created commercial art in Dallas and Midland. Her skills led her to teaching in a San Antonio art school. Doors to career choices were still opening and so Etta moved to Chicago, Illinois to draw the Red Rabbit comic books. *(1)

    Political cartooning beckoned in the 1950s. Etta again moved back to Austin, Texas and began freelancing for the Texas Observer. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram took on the now-famous artist as a full-time editorial cartoonist in 1972.

    Etta’s husband, Vernon Hulme, was a manager of exploration and coal operations for Texas Industries. He was an environmentally concerned fellow. Upon locating a huge vein of coal in Thurber, Texas in 1977, Mr. Hulme insisted that, “Great care is to be taken to minimize damage to any area around the work.” Etta said of her husband’s project, “He even had to make sure to protect rare warblers that annually migrated over Thurber.” He passed away in 1983.

    Looking like a mild-mannered grandmother, this woman in her late 70s is direct and blunt in her cartooning work for The Fort Worth Star-Telegram. She takes on the hard political issues of the day with a huge sense of humour and points out the obvious errors of politics. She is unafraid to stir up the pot, even getting disgruntled mail from readers. One such letter contained a copy of her cartoon panel about the Second Amendment (for gun control) clipped from the newspaper. It had several bullet holes shot through it, by someone who disagreed with her opinion. *(2)

    When asked, on a women's panel at the NCS, about hindrances to women in the cartooning field, Etta has experienced few barriers because of her gender. “The biggest obstacle for me has been most of you editors and the biggest asset has been white out,” quipped the cartoonist.

    A collection of Etta’s editorial cartoons can be found in, “Ettatorials, The Best of Etta Hulme” by Pelican Publishing Company. Her cartoons have appeared in many editions of “Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year,” also by Pelican.

    The National Cartoonist Society awarded her the Best Editorial Cartoonist in 1982 and she was President of the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists in 1987.

    It appears that Etta Hulme loves her work. “This is the line of least resistance. You get to say what you think until the editor puts the skids on you,” she said in the Chattanooga Times/Free Press .

    An exhibit of her work, “Etta Hulme and her work: A Retrospective,” was recently held at the University of Texas Library, where she personally opened the display. Her work can be seen in weekly panel instalments on the United Features Syndicate site.

    There are still very few women in political cartooning. Of the approximately 300 members of the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists in 1999, ten are women.

University of Texas at Austin, short blurb on Etta Hulme:
*(1) http://www.uta.edu/library/press/hulme.html

Barbed Dolls, Female Perspectives on Editorial Cartooning by Lisa Denton, 1999: *(2)

Enjoy Etta’s weekly cartoon:
http://www.comics.com/editoons/hulme/index.html

A photo of Etta Hulme at the UTA meeting:
http://libraries.uta.edu/publications/LibraryNotes/Spring2001/HulmeWittpic.htm

© Susanna McLeod 2002
TheCartoonists.ca  
   
(Originally published in The Cartoonists on suite101.com.)