Photograph of Jessie Willcox Smith, Students of Howard Pyle Files, Delaware Art Museum
Jessie Willcox Smith
Date: American painter and illustrator, 1863–1935
Biography: With Elizabeth Shippen Green and Violet Oakley, one of trio called the Red Rose Girls, for the name of home they occupied, Willcox Smith (1863-1935) epitomized the home life of the late-Victorian era in her 44 year career. She illustrated over 60 books, 250 periodicals, and almost 200 covers for Good Housekeeping as well as many posters, calendars and prints.

In 1884, she enrolled in the School of Design for Women (Philadelphia) and, in 1885, at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where she studied with Thomas Eakins. Her first illustration appeared in St. Nicholas. She took a position at The Ladies' Home Journal in the advertising department, doing rough sketches and borders and, eventually, full advertisements.

Wanting to enter the book illustration field, she enrolled in Pyle's 1894 illustration class at Drexel Institute. In 1897, Houghton Mifflin published Evangeline which - thanks to Pyle - showcased her work and and that of her fellow Pyle student Violet Oakley. In 1903, Willcox Smith collaborated with Elizabeth Shippen Green on Book of the Child by Mabel Humphrey.

Early in her career, Willcox Smith—who specialized in the portrayal of children—was compared to Kate Greenaway and Maud Humphrey. In creating her images of domestic life and related scenes, she preferred natural light out of doors, often using friends' children as models. In 1918, she began to illustrate cover of Good Housekeeping with images of the American home life, publishing a cover each month until April of 1933. Many of the covers were assembled into books with poems or stories written or found to fit the illustration. Later in life, she turned increasingly to portrait work.

Willcox Smith's popularity persisted well into the 20th century, as nostalgia for an innocent and protected view of childhood endured among her followers. In 1910, when educated professionals rarely made more than $6,000, she earned about $12,000.