Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Ho-Hos are not something created by Hostess

            People know Rose O’Neill for her famous Kewpie Dolls, created at the beginning of the Twentieth Century and more popular at the time than Mickey Mouse.
            The multi-talented O’Neill was so much more — a novelist, regular illustrator with magazines such as Ladies Home Journal and Good Housekeeping, suffragette and America’s first female cartoonist. Her Kewpie Dolls began as illustrations in periodicals, then were established as dolls when the public demanded them.
            After all that success O’Neill created another figure, that of the Ho-Ho, something akin to a laughing Buddha. Like her Kewpie dolls, they came in different shades of skin, much like humans. She was a woman ahead of her time, in that regard, creating dolls for both white and African American children. 
            The Ho-Hos didn’t make it with the public, however, and O’Neill abandoned the idea.
            You can see examples of these cute, laughing figures at Bonniebrook, O’Neill’s reconstructed home built on the original foundation outside of Brandon; the house burned in 1947. The Bonniebrook Historical Society offers tours of the home with some of O’Neill’s furnishings, plus a museum showcasing the life of this amazing but little-known artist, writer and activist. And her Ho-Hos.
           Rose died pennyless in 1944 at the age of 69, but according to the Historical Society, "she had made nearly 5,500 drawings, innumerable paintings both in oil and watercolor; she was a sculptor, suffragist, inventor, business woman, philosopher, poet, novelist, children’s book author, and even a musician. 
           As the web site so proudly proclaims, "There is no mistaking that she lived an extraordinarily rich and productive life."


  1. This is really interesting. I've heard of Kewpie Dolls and Ho-Hos, but never knew their history or that their creator was a woman.

  2. Very interesting, Chere. A rich life gone unnoticed and now you have revived her.

  3. I never heard of her either until I visited Bonniebrook near Branson. She really was an amazing woman. She grew up poor in a creative house and her mom sold a cow to get her to New York City and the nuns helped support her until she made enough in the publishing business. Hated corsets, thought women were too constricted. Put votes for women messages into her work.

  4. How neat! My great-grandmother had one of those kewpies, and I want to say it was made of china, but that was in the early 60s, so my memory is not what it could/should be :)

  5. Wow! My favorite artist and favorite treat in the same title! We love it when Rose O'Neill and her beloved Bonniebrook are "discovered" by new visitors. Thanks for the great article, Chere, I know it will generate lots of interest.

    Ingrid Taylor
    Bonniebrook Historical Society