In the "Women on Stamps" virtual exhibit series, we explore the women on postage stamps and the contributions they have made to America. In "Women on Stamps: Part 3" we focus on women who have made significant contributions to the arts and literature.


- Introduction
- Paintings of Scenic America
- The American Impressionist
- Mexican Surrealism: Frida Kahlo
- An Unconventional Sculptor
- Women Illustrators
- Photographers Capture America
- Literary Reward Recipients
- Poets: Emily Dickinson and Marianne Moore
- Famous Female Journalists
- Children’s Books Authors
- The Rules of Etiquette: Emily Post
- Pioneer Women: Willa Cather
- The American Civil War, Fact and Fiction
- From Abolition to Civil Rights
- Women with a Political Mission
- Multifaceted Writers
- Conclusion
- Credits


The United States Postal Service has honored significant women by featuring them on postage stamps. In the exhibit series Women on Stamps, we explore the women on postage stamps and the contributions they have made to America. In Women on Stamps: Part 3 we focus on women who have made significant contributions to the arts and literature.

The first part of this exhibit highlights the accomplishments of female artists. Whether they are painters, sculptors, illustrators, or photographers, these women have greatly contributed to the world of American art. The second part of this exhibit discusses women in literature. From journalists such as Ida Tarbell to novelists such as Edith Wharton, these women not only made great contributions to American literature, they also expanded opportunities for future women authors.

Through featuring artistic and literary women honored on United States postage stamps, we hope to explore and acknowledge the contributions these women have made to American society and cultural traditions.

Paintings of Scenic America

Grandma Moses and Georgia O’Keeffe are both well known for their paintings depicting the American landscape. Although they have differing artistic styles, these two artists have continued to capture the American imagination with their paintings of scenic America.

Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) is a prominent American painter famous for her scenes of the Southwest and flowers. O’Keeffe originally worked as a commercial artist and art teacher, but she eventually began to make a career out of her artistic paintings during the 1920’s. Her unique style of painting has made O’Keeffe one of the most well known and influential artists of the twentieth century.

Paintings of Scenic America

Anne Mary Robertson Moses, better known as Grandma Moses, (1860-1961) began painting in 1936 after she retired from farm work. Although she was into her seventies when she began painting, her paintings of traditional rural life captured viewer’s visions of an old time America. Today, she still remains as one of America’s most beloved female artists.

The American Impressionist

Although the Impressionist art movement primarily consisted of French artists, American artists contributed to the movement as well. One of the most prominent American Impressionists is Mary Cassatt.

Mary Cassatt (1844-1926) was known for her scenes of the domestic. She originally studied painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts but in 1866 left America to travel and study art in Europe. In 1848 she eventually settled down in Paris where she became friends with painter and sculptor, Edgar Degas. She spent most of her remaining life in France and was accepted as an Impressionist artist.

The American Impressionist

This 5-cent stamp was issued on November 17, 1966, as part of the American Painting Series. The stamp was designed by Robert R. Jones and features Cassatt’s painting “The Boating Party.”

Mexican Surrealism: Frida Kahlo

Many international artists have greatly impacted the development of American art. One influential artist is Mexico’s Frida Kahlo.

Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) is a Mexican artist whose is most famous for her self-portraits. Kahlo was in a devastating bus accident as a teenager, and suffered from her injuries for the rest of her life. The theme of coping with physical suffering is recurrent within her paintings. Other common themes of Kahlo’s work are Mexican patriotism and women. Kahlo’s paintings have proved to be an inspiration to women world wide, and have also greatly influenced American artists.

An Unconventional Sculptor

Traditionally, sculpture is considered a male art form. However, remarkable female sculptors have changed this viewpoint by contributing greatly to the field. One woman that has changed the role of women sculptors is Louise Nevelson.

Louise Nevelson (1899-1988) is one of the most influential sculptor’s of the twentieth century. Born in Russia, Nevelson moved to the United States in 1905, and began her artistic career around 1920. Nevelson is particularly known for her large wall sized sculptures made of wood, metal, and other materials.

In 2000, the Postal Service released a Louise Nevelson Issue. The picture to the right displays the stamps included in the Louise Nevelson Series. The series was designed by Ethel Kessler and shows photographs highlighting details of Nevelson’s larger and more complex sculptures including: Silent Music I, Royal Tide I, Black Chord, Night Sphere Light, and Dawns Wedding Chapel I.

Women Illustrators

Before the widespread use of photography, magazines relied on illustrators to provide images for their stories and advertisements. The need for women illustrators to portray domestic and feminine scenes in women’s magazines and advertisements gave many women the chance to earn a living as artists. Jessie Wilcox Smith, Rose O’Neill, and Neysa McMein are three examples of accomplished female illustrators.

These three women’s stamps were designed by Carl Herrman for the American Illustrators Issue. The Jessie Wilcox Smith stamp contains her illustration, "The First Lesson," which appeared in Ladies Home Journal in 1904. The Rose O’Neill stamp contains her undated picture, "Kewpie with Kewpie Doodle Dog." And the Neysa McMein stamp contains a portrait of her as an artist.

Jessie Wilcox Smith (1863-1935) illustrated for magazines such as Good Housekeeping and Ladies Home Journal throughout the beginning of the twentieth century. She loved children and began illustrating while she was a kindergarten teacher. Although she never married or had children of her own, her illustrations usually featured images of children’s activities. In addition to her artwork on magazines, Smith was also the illustrator of many children’s books.

Women Illustrators

Rose O’Neill (1874-1944) is most well known for her creation of the Kewpie characters that appeared in Ladies Home Journal during the early 1900’s. In addition to her illustrations for Ladies Home Journal, she also wrote several children’s books that contained the characters. O’Neill also created illustrations for other prominent magazines of the time such as Good Housekeeping and Life, and also was a sculptor, novelist, and poet.

Women Illustrators

Neysa McMein (1888-1949) Illustrated for magazines such as McCall's, Saturday Evening Post, and Woman’s Home Companion during the 1920’s and 1930’s. In addition to her illustrations for magazines, McMein also created artwork for advertisements. Her most notable advertisement illustration is that of Betty Crocker for General Mills.

Photographers Capture America

Women have long been active participants in American photography. Gertrude Kasebier, Imogen Cunningham, and Dorthea Lange are three photographers that have made significant contributions to the development of photography as an art form in America.

These three women’s stamps were designed by Derry Noyes for the Masters of American Photography Issue. The ceremony for the stamps was held in San Diego, California at the Museum of Photographic Art. The Gertrude Kasebier stamp displays her 1895 work, "Blessed Art Thou Among Women." The Imogene Cunningham stamp features her 1958 photograph, "Age and Its Symbols: a Portrait of Ida C. Pabst." And the Dorthea Lange stamp shows her 1935 photograph entitled, "Ditched, Stalled, and Stranded, San Joaquin Valley, California."

Gertrude Kasebier (1852-1934) was a pictorialist photographer who primarily took pictures of domestic scenes of mothers with their children. Kasebier also created portrait photographs of major literary and artistic figures. She helped create the group of photographers known as the Photo-Secession, which worked to have photography considered an actual art form.

Photographers Capture America

Imogen Cunningham (1883-1976) was a prominent modernist photographer during the 1920’s. Cunningham is best known for her realistic black and white photographs of scenes from nature, but she also photographed for Vanity Fair during the 1930’s. Cunningham was also part of the group of prominent photographers that referred to themselves as f.64. This group contained artists such as Ansel Adams, and felt that photographs should contain more focused images.

Photographers Capture America

Dorthea Lange (1895-1965) was a documentary photographer that took photographs of impoverished people during the Great Depression. In order to increase public sympathy for those most affected by the depression, in 1935 the Farm Security Administration hired Lange to take photos of migrant workers and out of work farmers. This commission resulted in one of her most famous works, the "Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California," that depicted a migrant mother with her two children.

Literary Reward Recipients

The contributions of women authors were often overlooked by prestigious literary awards such as the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize for Literature. However, women such as Edith Wharton, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Marguerite Higgins broke into the literary canon, becoming the first women to win major literary awards.

Marguerite Higgins (1920-1966) is one of the most accomplished female war correspondents from the mid twentieth century. During World War II she covered the liberation of the Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camps while working for the New York Herald Tribune. She then went on to become the first woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting in 1951 for her coverage of the Korean War and continued as a reporter during the Vietnam War.

The Marguerite Higgins stamp is part of the Women in Journalism Issue and was designed by Fred Otnes. The stamp contains a picture of Higgins that appeared in her 1951 book, War in Korea. To the right of her picture, is the word Korea, that was taken from the map on the inside back cover of War in Korea. To the left of her picture, is a New York Herald Tribune nameplate from September 17, 1950.

Literary Reward Recipients

Edith Wharton (1862-1937) proved to be one of the most prominent female authors of the early twentieth century. Her short stories and novels often critiqued the social conventions of the upper class society to which she belonged. In 1920 she wrote one of her most celebrated novels, The Age of Innocence, which examined the lives of elite socialites in New York. In 1921 she became the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize when she received the award for The Age of Innocence.

Literary Reward Recipients

Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950) became the first woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1923 for her work, The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver: A Few Figs from Thistles: Eight Sonnets in American Poetry. Common themes of her work include the struggle between life and death, love, and anti-fascism. Although best known as a poet, Millay also wrote well known plays such as The Lamp and the Bell in 1921. In addition to winning the Pulitzer Prize, Millay was also elected to join the prestigious and highly selective National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1929.

Poets: Emily Dickinson and Marianne Moore

Emily Dickinson and Marianne Moore are two of the most prominent poets of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Their distinctive writing styles and contributions to poetry have made them both important figures in the American literary tradition.

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) has proved to be one of the most well known American poets from her time. She received excellent education for a woman of the nineteenth century, and attended the Amherst Academy from 1840-1847, before going to the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary until August of 1848. Best known for her reclusiveness, Dickinson left Mount Holyoke and returned to her family home in Amherst, Massachusetts, where she lived until her death. Although she wrote over 1,700 poems during her life, the majority of Dickinson’s work was not published until after her death.

Poets: Emily Dickinson and Marianne Moore

Marianne Moore (1887-1972) was a satirical poet that won the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, and the Bollingen Prize in 1952 for her book, Collected Poems. Moore also edited the artistic journal, The Dial, from 1925-1929. Throughout her career, Moore became one of the most respected poets of her time, and remains an influential literary figure to this day.

Famous Female Journalists

Journalists have had an active role in defining American history through their coverage of current events. Ida Tarbell, Nellie Bly, and Ethel Payne all contributed to the field of journalism by providing social commentary on major political and social events and reporting on controversial topics.

These women’s stamps were designed by Fred Otnes for the Women in Journalism Issue. The stamps were issued in Fort Worth, Texas, at a meeting of the National Convention of Professional Journalists. The Ida Tarbell stamp contains her picture, and to the right of it has the McClure’s heading and her article headline, “The History of the Standard Oil Company,” from the 1902 November issue. The Nellie Bly stamp contains an 1890 black and white photograph of Bly, and to the left of her picture is a portion of the nameplate of The World from January 20, 1890. The Ethel L. Payne stamp has her picture and to the right of it is a headline for her article “The Alabama Bus Boycott,” that appeared in the Chicago Defender on February 18, 1956.

Although she originally began her writing career at McClure’s, Ida M. Tarbell (1857-1944) changed the world of investigative journalism in 1904 when she wrote, "The History of the Standard Oil Company." Her story exposed the corruption of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company, and largely contributed to the Supreme Court case that ultimately decided to destroy the Standard Oil monopoly.

Famous Female Journalists

Ethel L. Payne (1911-1991), a top journalist of the twentieth century, reported on many issues relating to race relations and segregation. Payne started out as a columnist for the African American newspaper, the Chicago Defender, and covered the racial segregation of troops in Vietnam. She then went on to become the first African American woman to work for CBS and be a White House correspondent in 1972.

Famous Female Journalists

Nellie Bly (1864-1922) was one of the first female investigative journalists of her time. While writing for the New York World, she investigated the treatment of mentally ill people inside of asylums by checking herself into an institution. Her work helped spark reforms for the quality of care for the mentally ill. In addition to her skills as a journalist, Bly is also well known for travelling around the world in seventy-two days and setting a new record.

Children’s Books Authors

Many exceptional female authors have captured children’s imaginations through their children’s books. The books of Louisa May Alcott, Kate Douglass Wiggin, and Laura Ingles Wilder have not only sparked the imagination but have also fostered a love of reading for several generations of American children.

These three women’s stamps were designed by Jim Lamb and were issued in Louisville, Kentucky, for the Classic Book Stamps series.

Laura Ingles Wilder (1867-1957) was born in rural Pepin, Wisconsin. Growing up within a pioneer family herself, she later went on to write the iconic Little House children’s series that told stories about a family living a pioneer life on the frontier. She started writing the series when she was sixty five years old, and published her first book, Little House in the Big Woods, in 1932. Wilder continued to write until her death and her works remain popular amongst children today.

Children’s Books Authors

Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888) is most known for her novel, Little Women, written in 1868. The novel documents the March sisters growing up during the Civil War era and is largely autobiographical of Alcott’s own experiences growing up in an impoverished family. After Little Women, Alcott wrote two sequels, Little Men: Life at Plumfield with Jo's Boys and Jo's Boys, and How They Turned Out. In addition to writing, she was also part of the suffragist and temperance movements. Since her death, Alcott has remained an American literary icon.

Children’s Books Authors

Kate Douglass Wiggin (1856-1923) was a teacher and a kindergarten movement activist. In 1883 she began to publish children’s books for an additional income, but eventually started to write full time. Her most famous work is Rebecca at Sunnybrook Farm which she published in 1903, and later adapted into a Broadway play. The story tells the tale of an energetic young girl growing up on a farm with her two aunts.

The Rules of Etiquette: Emily Post

In the early 1900’s, guidebooks on manners and etiquette were popular amongst middle class women. Although many guidebooks were available, Emily Post became the true authority on etiquette in the 1920’s.

Throughout the early twentieth century, Emily Post (1873-1960) set the guidelines for good manners within America. In 1922 she wrote her book, Etiquette: the Blue Book of Social Usage that could be used as a guide for proper social behavior. In addition to her books, she also wrote a newspaper column, spoke on radio shows, and established the Post Institute for the Study of Gracious Living in 1946.

The Emily Post stamp was issued as part of the Celebrate the Century: 1920s souvenir sheet. The ceremony was held at Chicago’s “Celebrate State Street” Festival. The stamp was designed by Carl Herrman and has a picture of a table setting with 1920’s dishware.

Pioneer Women: Willa Cather

Willa Cather was one of the most widely read female authors of the twentieth century. Her works of fiction based around frontier life continue to entertain modern American readers.

Willa S. Cather (1873-1947) was a prolific author of novels and short stories that described pioneer life and generally contained strong female women who survived on the frontier. Cather wrote fiction throughout her entire life but did not focus solely on creative writing until she left her managing editor position at McClure’s in 1912. Some of her most famous works include, O Pioneers!, My Antonia, and One of Ours which won her the Pulitzer Prize in 1923.

The Willa Cather stamp was issued in Cather’s home of Red Cloud, Nebraska. The stamp was designed by Mark English and contains a profile of Cather with a background of a pioneer family in a covered wagon that represents Cather’s pioneer themed stories. This stamp is part of the American Arts Issue, and Cather is the only woman featured in the Issue.

The American Civil War, Fact and Fiction

The Civil War greatly affected American life and history. The works of Mary Chestnut and Margaret Mitchell demonstrate the reality of the Civil War and how the war is remembered in American Society.

Mary Chestnut (1823-1913) was a South Carolina resident who kept a diary throughout the Civil War. Her diary provides particularly interesting information due to the fact that her husband, James Chestnut, was a United States senator for South Carolina until the state seceded from the Union in 1860. Chestnut was also close friends with Jefferson Davis and his wife, Varina. Now known as Mary Chestnut’s Civil War, her diary provides insight into the influences of the Civil War on daily life. The right side stamp above was designed by Mark Hess for the American Civil War Issue. It contains an illustration of Mary Chestnut writing in her diary at a desk.

The American Civil War, Fact and Fiction

Margaret Mitchell (1900-1949) published Gone With the Wind, a highly romanticized story of the South during the Civil War, in 1937. Although it was her only novel, it remains one of the most popular books in American history, and also won her the 1937 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. In addition to the book, a movie version of Gone With the Wind opened in 1939 and is one of the most famous American movies ever made.

This stamp was released on the fiftieth anniversary of Gone With the Wind. The ceremony was held at the Omni International Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia. The stamp contains a portrait of Mitchell on it, and was designed by Ron Adair for the Great American Series.

The American Civil War, Fact and Fiction

This stamp was issued in Cleveland, Ohio, as part of the Celebrate The Century: 1930s Issue. The stamp was designed by Howard Paine, and contains an illustration of Gone With the Wind.

From Abolition to Civil Rights

The abolitionist movement of the nineteenth century and the civil rights movement of the twentieth century both had a great impact on the lives of women. Three women that played an active role in the fight for racial equality through their works of literature are Harriet Beecher Stowe, Julia Ward Howe, and Zora Neale Hurston.

Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) largely contributed to African American and feminist literature throughout the Harlem Renaissance. Although not regarded as valuable during her lifetime, her novels and anthropological works are now essential to the study of African American culture. In 1937 she wrote her most acclaimed novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God.

The Zora Neale Hurston stamp is the nineteenth stamp in the Literary Arts Series. The ceremony was held in Eatonville, Florida, during the fourteenth Zora Neale Hurston Street Festival. It was designed by Howard E. Paine and contains Drew Struzan’s portrait of Zora Neale Hurston with a Florida background that represents the setting from her novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God.

From Abolition to Civil Rights

Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) is one of the most influential American abolitionist writers. Raised in a Calvinist family, Stowe’s religious beliefs influenced her anti-slavery views. After the Fugitive Slave Act that made assisting an escaped slave a federal offense passed in 1850, Stowe decided to write Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, published in 1852, told the story of several slaves on a Kentucky plantation. Since its original publication, the novel is still regarded as a prominent work within abolitionist literature.

The Harriet Beecher Stowe stamp was issued in Washington, DC, as part of the Distinguished Americans Series. The stamp was designed by Richard Sheaff and contains a portrait of Stowe by Mark Summers. The portrait was based on a stipple engraving by Francis Holl that was made in 1855.

From Abolition to Civil Rights

Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910), is a nineteenth century American poet, most known for her work “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” written in 1861."The Battle Hymn of the Republic" was largely sung by northern troops on the move. In addition to poetry, Howe was also very involved in the abolitionism and suffragist movements within the United States.

The Julia Ward Howe stamp was issued in Boston, Massachusetts. The stamp was designed by Ward Brackett for the Great Americans Series.

Women with a Political Mission

Throughout history women have used literature as a way to express a political message. Pearl S. Buck and Ayn Rand are two prominent female authors that used their fiction to inform the public of their political and social causes.

Pearl S. Buck (1892-1973) had missionary parents so spent the majority of her childhood and adolescence in China. This experience exposed her to both Eastern and Western traditions from an early age. In 1931 she wrote her Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize winning work, The Good Earth that told the story of a peasant family in China. Many of her literary works dealt with East-West tensions, and Buck devoted her life to improving the level of understanding between the two cultures.

The Pearl S. Buck stamp was issued in Buck’s birthplace of Hillsboro, West Virginia, at Hillsboro Elementary-Middle School. This stamp was designed by Paul Calle and is based on a head portrait of Pearl S. Buck by Freeman Eliot.

Women with a Political Mission

Ayn Rand (1905-1982) is a controversial writer and philosopher. Rand was fiercely anti-communist, and was greatly impacted after witnessing her own family’s financial ruin after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 in Russia. After attending the University of Petrograd, she moved to the United States. Her two most famous works, Fountainhead (1943) and Atlas Shrugged (1957), stress Rand’s philosophy of “objectivism,” which focuses on capitalism, individual freedoms, and rationality.

The Ayn Rand stamp was issued as part of the American Literary Arts Series. The ceremony was held in New York City at the spring postage stamp mega event. The stamp was designed by Phil Jordan and features an illustration of Ayn Rand with the Manhattan skyline.

Multifaceted Writers

While many women writers have succeeded in specific fields of literature, some women have excelled in several forms of writing. Women such as Edna Ferber, Katherine Anne Porter, and Dorothy Parker have proven themselves as versatile authors capable of writing anything from essays to plays.

Katherine Anne Porter (1890-1980) is best known for her short stories and novel, but she also wrote essays, book reviews, articles, and screenplays. In 1962, Porter published Ship of Fools, her only novel, and achieved great success with the book. In 1965 Porter wrote her famous Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter, that won her the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1966.

The Katherine Anne Porter stamp is the twenty-second stamp in the Literary Arts Series. The ceremony was held at the Porter Literary Center in Kyle, Texas. The stamp was designed by Michael J. Deas and was inspired by a 1936 photograph of Porter that was taken by George Platt Lynes. Behind Porter’s portrait is an ocean scene that is described in her novel, Ship of Fools.

Multifaceted Writers

Edna Ferber (1885-1968) wrote novels, plays, and short stories that detail life in midwestern America. She began her career as a journalist and worked for the Appleton Daily Crescent and the Milwaukee Journal. Many of her novels were also made into movies from the 1930’s to the 1950’s. In 1924 she won the Pulitzer Prize for her novel, So Big, a story of a widow that provides for her son by running the family farm. She also wrote the novel Show Boat that later became a successful musical and movie.

Multifaceted Writers

This 29-cent stamp was issued on July 14, 1993, in New York’s Times Square as part of the Legends of American Music Series. The stamp was designed by Wilson McLean and depicts a scene from Edna Ferber’s play "Show Boat."

Multifaceted Writers

Dorothy Parker (1893-1967) is one of the most versatile writers of her time. Parker successfully wrote short stories, plays, poems, screen plays, reviews, and magazine articles and is well known for her sardonic and satirical writing style. In 1959 she was inducted into the highly selective American Academy of Arts and Letters.

The Dorothy Parker stamp was issued in West End, New Jersey, and is the tenth in the Literary Arts Series of stamps. The stamp contains a portrait of Parker and was designed by Greg Rudd.


In Women on Stamps: Part 3, we examined women’s role in literature and the arts. These women not only contributed to American culture, but also opened up the arts to future generations of women. Through featuring these women artists and authors on United States postage stamps, the Postal Service honors their contributions.

See also:

Women on Stamps: Part 1 introduces a series of four virtual exhibits exploring the accomplishments of pioneering women and early government leaders in America.

Women on Stamps: Part 2 features women who pioneered in the fields of health, science, education, philanthropy, aviation and athletics.

Women on Stamps: Part 4 features women who have made significant contributions to the performing arts.

The four Women on Stamps virtual exhibits are part of a larger effort to focus on diversity within America. To learn more about American diversity, go to the National Postal Museum's Virtual Exhibits page to view virtual exhibits on African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, and American Indians.

Created by Kelsey Fritz and Christine Mereand, National Postal Museum
Credits: Story

Created by Lauren Golden, Intern, and Christine Mereand, Arago Volunteer Coordinator, National Postal Museum

References used for this exhibit include:

Britannica Online Academic Edition

Literature Online

National Women’s Hall of Fame

Price, Anita and Louise Hunt. Women on United States Postage Stamps. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2008.

“Women on Stamps.” United States Postal Service. Publication 512, April 2003.

Visit the National Postal Museum's Website

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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