Nell Brinkley: A Real Girl

Nell Brinkley with cat

Nell Brinkley began her illustration career at age 16 in her hometown outside of Denver Colorado. By age 22 she was working in New York for William Randolph Hearst, and was assigned to cover the murder trial of Harry K. Thaw, the husband of actress Evelyn Thaw. Brinkley's stylized drawing of Evelyn Thaw garnered attention and praise. Within a year, Brinkley's style had become iconic and the new "Brinkley Girl" became the feminine beauty ideal.

A Girl Who Came to New York

A New York Cautionary Tale

This serial narrative from the Ladies Home Journal details the life of an ordinary young woman who moves to New York City. It is a cautionary tale that even describes the young woman's assault by her fiance. The life of Evelyn Nesbit Thaw also serves as a cautionary tale for young women and their mothers who are too trusting of male suitors. Nell Brinkley was one of many female illustrators who were assigned to draw at the hearing of Henry Thaw, bringing a sensitivity to the reporting of Ms. Thaw.

Courtroom drawing of Evelyn Nesbit Shaw
Cover art by Nell Brinkley The Nell Brinkley Bob Curler "Cats" Both Untameable

Admired Artist

Nell Brinkley was admired for both her drawings and her personal style. Although she drew seductive and sexually liberated women, she seemed to live a modest life that didn't garner attention.

Do You, as a Woman, Want to Vote? The Three Graces

A very feminine depiction of suffragettes in the "Brinkley Girl" style.

Seriously Feminine

Despite the frilly nature of her drawings and the sometimes silly stereotypes of female vanity, Nell Brinkley's characters could be seen engaging in the dialogue of the times. Brinkley's girls were independent and exemplified the "New Woman" who was concerned with suffragism.

Nell Brinkley: A Real Girl