The four-part virtual exhibit series, "Women on Stamps", highlights prominent women that have been featured on United States postage stamps. In "Women on Stamps: Part 4" we focus on women who have made significant contributions to the performing arts.


- Introduction
- Popularizing Country Music
- The Roots of Gospel
- From Gospel to Secular
- Revolutionary Jazz Artists
- A Case of the Blues
- A Swingin' Time
- Leading Ladies of the Opera
- Pop Sensations
- A Broadway Songwriter
- Revolutionary Dancers
- Stars of the Silent Screen
- Funny Girls, Female Comedians
- A Sure Shot
- A Family Affair
- Breaking Racial Boundaries
- 1940’s and 1950’s Darlings
- Conclusion
- Credits


The four-part exhibit series "Women on Stamps" highlights prominent women that have been featured on United States postage stamps. In "Women on Stamps: Part 4", we focus on women that have made significant contributions to the performing arts.

This exhibit is divided into two sections. The first section discusses prominent female singers. From gospel music to popular hits, these women have helped shape the musical traditions of America. The second section highlights women that have contributed to the fields of theatre and dance. Whether they are Broadway dancers or iconic movie actresses, these women have had a tremendous influence on the stage and screen.

The United States Postal Service has honored these talented women by featuring them on postage stamps. Through exploring the accomplishments of these exceptional women, we hope to learn more about women’s contributions to the performing arts and American culture.

The Roots of Gospel

The invigorating sound of gospel music has inspired Americans for generations. Artists such as Roberta Martin and Sister Rosette Tharpe greatly influenced the creation of an American gospel tradition by contributing their unique voices to the genre.

The Postal Service acknowledged the contributions Roberta Martin and Sister Rosetta Tharpe have made to gospel music by including them in the American Music Series: Gospel Issue. The stamps were designed by Howard Paine and the ceremony was held at the New Orleans Superdome during the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship Conference.

Roberta Martin (1907-1969) is a prominent African American gospel singer that is most well known for her versions of “Amazing Grace” and “If you Pray.” In 1935 Martin started her legendary gospel group, the Martin-Frye Quartet. The quartet eventually changed their name to the Roberta Martin Singers, and the group was most well known for each singer having a distinctive voice in their songs. In addition to her successful singing career, Martin also founded the Roberta Martin Studio of Music, which produced and distributed sheet music for black churches across America.

The Roots of Gospel

Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915-1973) started her career in gospel music as a result of her upbringing in a very religious family. Tharpe’s mother was very active in their church, the Missionary in Church of God in Christ, and raised Sister Rosetta Tharpe in a strict religious environment. Despite her mother’s protective nature, Tharpe’s career as a singer and guitarist flourished and she eventually achieved national fame. Tharpe helped popularize gospel music by combining traditional gospel music with the sounds of jazz and swing. Her contributions to gospel music have made her one of the most influential gospel singers of the twentieth century.

The Roots of Gospel

Once America had an established gospel music tradition, new generations of gospel artists attempted to make this musical tradition more accessible to the general public. Some artists popularized gospel music by increasing their involvement in humanitarian activities outside the church, while others added more secular themes to their songs. Two artists that greatly contributed to expanding the audience for gospel music in America were Mahalia Jackson and Clara Ward.

The Mahalia Jackson and Clara Ward stamps were designed by Howard Paine for the American Music Series: Gospel issue. The ceremony was held at the New Orleans Superdome during the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship Conference. Each stamp features a photograph depicting the gospel artist.

Mahalia Jackson’s (1911-1972) early life consisted of many trials and tribulations. Her mother died when she was still a child, and as a result of economic difficulties within her family, Jackson did not even complete her elementary school education. Despite these hardships, Jackson grew up to have a very successful career in the music industry. A large part of her success came from the fact that she combined jazz and blues sounds with more traditional gospel music in order to achieve a sound that appealed to more secular audiences. In addition to her music career, Jackson was also very involved in humanitarian work and the civil rights movement, which gave her the opportunity to sing before Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream Speech.” In 1972 Mahalia Jackson won a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Grammy to honor her contributions to American music.

The Roots of Gospel

Clara Ward (1924-1973) began her musical career by singing with her mother, Gertrude Murphy Ward, and her sister, Willarene. The family musical group referred to themselves as the Ward Singers and started out performing in churches throughout the 1940’s. Although they started out as a traditional gospel group, the Ward Singers changed their name to the Clara Ward Singers in the 1950’s and began to appeal to a more secular audience. The group began to play at more popular music venues and also started to wear brightly colored and flashy costumes. This transition to a more popular form of music made the Clara Ward Singers one of the most influential gospel groups of the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Revolutionary Jazz Artists

In the early 1900’s, experimental musicians began to form a sound that we today know as jazz. This new form of music was largely created by African Americans living in the American south. Two African American women that had a tremendous impact on jazz music are Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald.

Billie Holiday (1916-1959) is one of the most famous and influential jazz singers of the 1930’s and 1940’s. Holiday is most well known for her incredible control over the unique sound of her voice. Although Holiday experienced severe racism and discrimination, she still managed to make a career for herself by performing at various nightclubs during the 1930’s. Despite her success and fame, Holiday struggled with mental illness throughout her life, and eventually died due to effects from drug addiction and alcohol.

The Billie Holiday stamp was designed by Howard Koslow for the American Music Series: Jazz Singers Issue. The stamp was issued in Greenville, Mississippi, during the Mississippi Delta Blues and Heritage Festival. The stamp contains a photograph of Billie Holiday taken by William O. Gottlieb in 1940.

Revolutionary Jazz Artists

Ella Fitzgerald (1917-1996) is one of the most well known jazz artists of the twentieth century. Fitzgerald began her career in 1934 after winning a contest at the Apollo. Like Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald experienced the racism of her time period and was discriminated against in many venues. However, she did receive the opportunity to play at the popular Mocambo Club due to Marilyn Monroe’s promise to the venue owner that she would attend the club each night Fitzgerald played. Despite the racism she encountered, Ella Fitzgerald ultimately became one of the most successful artists in her time, and won thirteen Grammy awards and the National Medal of Arts throughout her career. In addition to her musical career, Fitzgerald was also very charitable towards children’s organizations.

The Ella Fitzgerald stamp was designed by Ethel Kessler for the Black Heritage Series. The picture on the stamp was made by Paul Davis and was based on a 1956 photograph of Fitzgerald. The ceremony for the stamp was held at the Lincoln Center in New York, New York.

A Case of the Blues

The musical traditions of southern African Americans have tremendously effected the development of music in America. The African American genre of the blues influenced both the creation of jazz and popular music. Gertrude Rainey and Bessie Smith are two blues singers that greatly contributed to the genre.

The Gertrude Rainey and Bessie Smith stamps were issued by the Postal Service to honor their contributions to music. The stamps were issued in Greenville, Mississippi, during the Mississippi Delta Blues and Heritage Festival. The Gertrude Rainey stamp was designed by Julian Allen and the Bessie Smith stamp was designed by Howard Koslow. Both stamps are part of the American Music Series: Jazz Singers Issue.

“Ma” Gertrude Rainey (1886-1939) started her career in vaudeville, but became an influential blues singer during the 1920’s. Rainey performed with her husband, William “Pa” Rainey, and the couple worked under Paramount Records. “Ma” Gertrude Rainey’s contribution to blues music has been acknowledged by the music community through her inductions into the Blue Foundation Blues Hall of Fame (1983), Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame (1990), and the Georgia Music Hall of Fame (1992).

A Case of the Blues

Bessie Smith (1892-1937) is another prominent blues singer of the 1920’s. Smith started as a street musician and then went to vaudeville, but she achieved real success after she worked with “Ma” Gertrude Rainey. Once she formed a friendship with Rainey, Smith was signed by Columbia Records in 1923, and it was during her contract with them that she produced her most influential album, Down Hearted Blues. In 1937 Bessie Smith tragically died in an auto accident.

A Swingin' Time

Swing music was largely popular in America throughout the first half of the twentieth century. Jazz music greatly influenced the development of swing music; so many jazz artists later became involved with the swing scene as well. One artist who produced both jazz and swing music was Mildred Bailey.

Mildred Bailey (1907-1951) greatly contributed to the 1930’s jazz and swing music scenes. She greatly influenced the musical career of her childhood friend Bing Crosby, and also acted as a mentor to Billie Holiday. In addition to encouraging the careers of other musical legends from her lifetime, Bailey also became the first woman to tour with a band when she joined the Paul Whiteman orchestra. Later in her career, Bailey had great success on the radio when her and her husband, Red Norvo, started their own radio show.

The Mildred Bailey stamp was issued in Greenville, Mississippi, during the Mississippi Delta Blues and Heritage Festival. The stamp was designed by Howard Koslow for the American Music Series: Jazz Singers Issue.

Leading Ladies of the Opera

The classical singing form of opera has remained popular from generation to generation. One of the most prestigious opera companies in the world is New York’s Metropolitan Opera. Three of the Metropolitan Opera’s most renowned singers are Rosa Ponselle, Lily Pons, and Marian Anderson.

Rosa Ponselle (1887-1981) is one of the Metropolitan Opera’s most well known sopranos. However, this leading lady began her career on the vaudeville stage and in theatre productions. In the 1920’s Ponselle got her big break at the Metropolitan Opera, where she consistently played leading roles for twenty years. Despite the fact that she was still a success at the opera, in 1937 Ponselle ended her professional career to focus on her domestic life. However, although she no longer performed with the Metropolitan Opera, Ponselle still remained active in the Opera world through acting as a mentor for up and coming singers.

Leading Ladies of the Opera

Another one of the Metropolitan Opera’s most famous leading ladies is Lily Pons (1898-1976). Lily Pons was French-American and began her career in a 1928 performance of Lamke in Mulhouse, France. Like Rosa Ponselle, Pons had a soprano voice and her vocal talents eventually led her to a career with The Metropolitan Opera. Pons continued to perform with the Metropolitan Opera throughout the 1930’s and also received work within the film industry.

The United States Postal Service honored Rosa Ponselle and Lily Pons by featuring them on postage stamps. Their stamps were issued at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, New York. The stamps were designed by Howard Paine for the American Music Series: Opera Singers Issue.

Leading Ladies of the Opera

Another famous opera singer from the 1930’s is Marian Anderson (1897-1993). However, unlike Rosa Ponselle and Lily Pons, Anderson had a rough start to her career due to the discrimination and racism of her lifetime. Marian Anderson received particularly strong discrimination in 1939 when the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) would not allow her to sing at the DAR Constitution Hall because she was an African American. In response to this discrimination, first lady Eleanor Roosevelt set up a concert for Anderson on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and also resigned from her position in the DAR. Anderson’s concert on the Lincoln Memorial not only launched her personal career, but also remains as a landmark within the history of civil rights in America. After her concert, Anderson went on to become the first African American singer in the Metropolitan Opera and had a very successful career as an opera singer. In addition to her singing career, Anderson also became a U.S delegate to the United Nations, and in 1963 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The music community rewarded Anderson for her contributions to opera music by awarding her the Kennedy Center Award for lifetime achievements in the arts.

The Marian Anderson stamp was designed by Richard Sheaff for the Black Heritage Series. The stamp features an oil painting of Anderson created by Albert Slark. The ceremony was held in the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Constitution Hall to acknowledge the fact that Anderson was discriminated against by the DAR in the 1940’s.

Pop Sensations

Popular music is a vital part of America’s history. By examining the changes in popular music, we can learn more about the changes that have occurred in American culture and society as a whole. Ethel Waters, Ethel Merman, and Dinah Washington are three popular artists that demonstrate changes in society through their music.

Ethel Waters (1896-1977) is one of the most outstanding African American popular artists of her time. Like many artists, Waters began her career on the vaudeville stage before she achieved national fame in the 1920’s. In the 1930’s she made Broadway history by becoming the first African American to receive equal wages with her white co-stars for her role in As Thousands Cheer. Waters continued to have a successful career into the 1940’s, and in 1949 received an Academy Award nomination for her role in Pinky. Because of her immense success during her career, Ethel Waters has remained an important figure of popular music throughout the twentieth century.

Pop Sensations

Ethel Merman (1908-1984) is another important figure of the Broadway stage. Merman had a very successful career on Broadway and performed leading roles in famous musicals such as, Girl Crazy, Annie Get Your Gun, and Hello Dolly. In 1950 Merman’s success in Broadway was acknowledged when she won a Tony for her work in Call me Madam. In addition to her work on the stage, Ethel Merman also appeared in many movies.

The Postal Service acknowledged Waters and Merman’s contributions to popular music by featuring them on postage stamps. The Ethel Waters and Ethel Merman stamps were issued in New York, New York. The stamps were designed by Cris Payne for the American Music Series: Popular Singers Issue.

Pop Sensations

Another prominent African American artist of the twentieth century is Dinah Washington (1924-1963). Washington had a versatile voice that allowed her to sing a variety of music genres including gospel, blues, jazz, and pop. Dinah Washington’s successful music career was cut tragically short when she died of an accidental prescription drug overdose in 1963. The music community acknowledged Dinah Washington’s contributions to jazz music in 1996 when she was inducted into the Jazz Hall of Fame.

The Postal Service honored her by issuing a Dinah Washington stamp. The stamp was issued in Cleveland, Ohio, and was designed by John Berkey for the American Music Series.

Popularizing Country Music

Throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, country and folk music did not often reach a national audience. However, as the twentieth century progressed, country music became increasingly popularized at the national level. Musicians such as Sara Dougherty Carter, Maybelle Carter, and Patsy Cline expanded the boundaries of the genre and helped revolutionize the way America viewed country music.

In 1993 the United States Postal Service honored The Carter Family and Patsy Cline by featuring them on postage stamps. The stamps were designed by Richard Waldrep for the American Music Series: Country Music Issue. The ceremony was held at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, Tennessee.

Patsy Cline (1932-1963) greatly contributed to the popularization of country music across America. Although Cline performed throughout the early 1950’s, she did not achieve substantial national fame until she won the Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts Show in 1957. After the Talent Scouts Show, Cline attained national fame as an artist until her death in 1963 that resulted from a tragic plane crash. In 1973 Cline was honored by the country music community when she became the first solo female performer inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Popularizing Country Music

Sara Dougherty Carter (1898-1979) and Maybelle Carter (1909-1978) were cousins that formed their own country music group, The Carter Family. The third musician within the group was Maybelle Carter’s husband, Alvin P. Carter. Sara acted as the lead vocalist within the group, while Maybelle played the lead guitar. The Carter Family started out performing more traditional folk and gospel songs throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s, and split up in the 1940’s. However, despite the group’s deterioration, Maybelle and Sara remained active within the country music scene as late as the folk revival movement of the 1960’s. Due to their contributions to the country music genre, the group was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1970.

A Broadway Songwriter

Until the mid twentieth century it was very difficult for a female composer to get her work taken seriously. One exceptional female composer that broke through the gender restrictions of her life time and became a Broadway Composer is Dorothy Fields.

Dorothy Fields (1904-1974) is one of the most talented female composers of the twentieth century. Fields had a remarkable career and worked on many of America’s most famous musicals, including Annie Get Your Gun. Throughout her career, Fields won many awards including an Academy Award in 1936 for her original song, “The Way you Look Tonight.” Fields also won a Tony in 1959 for best musical for her work on Red Head.

Fields contributions to music composition in America were recognized by the Postal Service, through featuring her on a postage stamp. The Dorothy Fields stamp was designed by Gregg Rudd for the American Music Series: Songwriters. Fields was the only woman featured in the songwriters issue and the ceremony for the stamp was in New York, New York.

Revolutionary Dancers

Throughout the twentieth century, the art of dance went through significant changes. Although ballet is one of the most traditional forms of dance, exceptional choreographers helped to modernize and expand the definition of classical ballet. Two of these influential choreographers are Martha Graham and Agnes de Mille.

In the 1930’s and 1940’s Martha Graham (1894-1991) revolutionized the world of dance. Although she began dancing at the late age of twenty two, Graham quickly excelled at the art form and opened a dance company in 1929. Graham’s company differed from other ballet companies of the time by rejecting traditional methods of dance and by not wearing pointe shoes. Although Graham had her last performance at age seventy five, she continued to choreograph into her late seventies and early eighties. Because of Martha Graham’s unique style of choreography, she influenced the creation of a modern dance movement that is influential to this day.

Revolutionary Dancers

One of Martha Graham’s most successful protégés and friends is Agnes de Mille (1905-1993). Unlike Graham, de Mille started dancing at age three and danced throughout her entire childhood and college career in California. After she completed college, De Mille went to New York where she began her professional career. Agnes de Mille spent most of her career between the United States and Europe, but in 1939 she joined the American Ballet Theatre in New York for their premier season. During her career, Agnes de Mille was an exceptional performer and choreographer, who choreographed both dance and Broadway productions. Because of her remarkable career, Agnes de Mille is remembered as one of America’s most influential choreographers.

The Martha Graham and Agnes de Mille stamps were designed by Ethel Kessler and were issued at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center Victoria Theatre.

Stars of the Silent Screen

In the early days of film, before “talkies” had been invented, all movies were silent. Despite the lack of sound, talented silent film stars conveyed a variety of characters and emotions through acting. Theda Bara, Zasu Pitts, Clara Bow, and Greta Garbo are some of the most accomplished silent film actresses within American history.

Greta Garbo (1905-1990) received professional acting training at the Royal Dramatic Theatre Academy. After her schooling, Garbo found a mentor in director Mauritz Stiller, and eventually established a professional career in film when she received a contract with MGM. Although Great Garbo performed in primarily silent films, she did receive a role in a talking film as well.

Greta Garbo had a postage stamp released in her honor on her 100th anniversary. The stamp was designed by Carl Herrman and was based on a photograph taken by Clarence Sinclair Bull in 1932 during the filming of Garbo’s movie, “As You Desire Me.”

Stars of the Silent Screen

Theda Bara (1885-1955) is a prominent silent film star of the early twentieth century. Bara is most well known for her role as a Femme Fatale, also known as a seductress. She played the character of the Femme Fatale for many of her prominent movies, including Cleopatra and Carmen. However, Theda Bara also enjoyed exploring different roles she could play with the characters she portrayed. Because of her iconic performances as a seducing woman, Theda Bara is remembered as one of the best actresses within silent film.

Stars of the Silent Screen

Another important silent film actress is Zasu Pitts (1889-1963). One of Zasu Pitts most well known silent films is, All Quite on the Western Front. Although she began her career in silent movies, Zasu Pitts transitioned to talking movies in the 1930’s and primarily performed in films with her comedic counterpart, Thelma Todd. Pitts had an extremely successful career on both the stage and the screen and she continued to act as late as the 1960’s. Because of her successful transition from silent movies to the “talkies” of the mid-twentieth century, Zasu Pitts is remembered as a remarkable and versatile actress.

Stars of the Silent Screen

Perhaps the most influential female actress of silent film is Clara Bow (1905-1965). Clara Bow achieved national fame in the 1920’s with her roles as a seductress and flapper in silent and talking films. Bow’s revealing clothes and spirited character in her films, greatly influenced American women’s fashion and societal roles during the 1920’s. Clara Bow is remembered by American filmmakers to this day for her revolutionary effect on American women and society as a whole.

The Postal Service honored Theda Bara, Zasu Pitts, and Clara Bow by featuring them on postage stamps that were a part of the Silent Screen Stars Issue. The stamps were designed and drawn by Al Hirschfeld, and were issued in San Francisco, California.

Funny Girls, Female Comedians

The world of comedic acting was long dominated by male actors. However as the twentieth century progressed, exceptional female actresses began to break into comedic roles. Two women that significantly expanded the roles of women in comedy are Fanny Brice and Lucille Ball.

Fanny Brice (1891-1951) is one of the most outstanding early female comedians. Brice first achieved fame as a vaudeville actress, and then worked with the well known Ziegfeld Follies theatrical shows group. Brice’s most well known character is “Baby Snooks,” a self created character that was sneaky and cunning. In addition to her comedic career, Fanny Brice is also well known for the Broadway musical, Funny Girls, which was based on her life story. Because of her contributions to comedic acting, Fanny Brice remains an iconic female comedian to this day.

The Postal Service issued a Fanny Brice stamp in Hollywood, California. The stamp was designed by Al Hirschfeld who also did the art work on the stamp. Hirschfeld illustrated Brice as her iconic character Baby Snooks. The stamp is part of the Comedian Commemorative Issue, and Brice is the only woman honored in the issue.

Funny Girls, Female Comedians

Perhaps the most loved female comedian of the twentieth century is Lucille Ball (1911-1989). During the 1950’s Lucille Ball captured the hearts of Americans with her comedy sitcom, I love Lucy that featured her and her husband, Desi Arnaz. Ball also became one of the most powerful women in television when she gained full control of her and Arnaz’s production company, Desilu productions, in the 1960’s. As a result of her immense success in business, television, and film, Lucille Ball is remembered as one of the most influential actresses of the 1950’s.

Lucille Ball had a postage stamp released in her honor as part of the Legends of Hollywood Issue. The stamp was designed by Derry Noyes and was released on Ball’s birthday. The ceremony was held at the Hollywood History Museum.

A Sure Shot

As American borders grew during the time of Western expansion, so did women’s societal roles. Due to the difficult lifestyle of western settlers, distinctive gender roles within domestic life became blurred, and many women learned traditional male tasks. One woman that excelled at the typically male sport of shooting is Annie Oakley.

Annie Oakley (1860-1926) is best known for her excellent ability to shoot any object precisely. Oakley used her skills to perform in western shows, and from 1885-1902 she performed in the famous Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Oakley’s skills as a shooter were rare and unexpected for a woman of her time period, and a result she has become a legend of the American west. The story of Annie Oakley has been passed down between generations largely through the 1946 Broadway play, Annie Get Your Gun.

The legacy of Annie Oakley was honored by the Postal Service through the issue of an Annie Oakley postage stamp. The stamp was designed by Mark Hess for the Legends of the West Issue and depicts Oakley holding a gun while standing in front of a scene of the American west.

A Family Affair

Many artists team up with other family members or their spouses in order to strengthen their careers. For example, Lynn Fontanne and her husband Alfred Lunt were more successful as a couple than individually. Other artists, such as Ethel Barrymore, are born into families of celebrities. Either way, these women prove that sometimes family connections can help make your career.

Lynn Fontanne (1887-1983) gained her greatest success as an actress by working with her husband Alfred Lunt. The couple worked with one another for forty years, and became known as a Hollywood team. Although she consistently worked with her husband, Fontanne had significant talent as an actress, and in 1931 was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in The Guardsmen.

The Lynn Fontanne stamp was designed by Carl Herrman and was issued in New York, New York at the Lunt Fontanne Theatre. The stamp features a picture of Lynn Fontanne with her husband, Alfred Lunt.

A Family Affair

Ethel Barrymore (1879-1959) was born into show business. Her father, Maurice Barrymore, was a playwright and her mother, Georgiana Emma Drew Barrymore, was a successful actress. In addition to her parent’s involvement in the entertainment industry, her two brothers John and Lionel were also successful actors. Although having a famous family helped her career, Ethel Barrymore made a name for herself with her own accomplishments as a film and stage actresses. In 1927 the Ethel Barrymore Theatre was made in her honor, and in 1944 she won an Academy Award for None but the Lonely Heart.

The Barrymores stamp was designed by Jim Sharpe for the Performing Arts Series. The stamp features a picture of the family, with Ethel Barrymore in the center. The stamp was issued in New York, New York.

Breaking Racial Boundaries

African American actors and singers experienced extreme discrimination in both their personal and professional lives during the twentieth century. However, despite this hardship, many African American performers still achieved national success in their careers. One particular actress that persevered through racism is Hattie McDaniel.

Although there are many African American artists that broke through the racial boundaries of their time, Hattie McDaniel (1895-1952) is one of the most accomplished African American actresses of the 1930’s. As many actresses of the 1920’s and 1930’s did, McDaniel started out her career in vaudeville. She then expanded her career through singing with the Morrison Orchestra. In 1931 McDaniel shifted from stage to screen and started appearing in films, and eventually achieved national fame with her role as Mammy in the film, Gone With the Wind. She became the first African American to attend the Academy Awards in 1939, when she won the award for best supporting actress.

Because of her contributions to film, the Postal service issued a Hattie McDaniel stamp in her honor. The stamp was issued at the Margaret Herrick Library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, California, as part of the Black Heritage Series. The stamp features a portrait created by Tim O’Brian that is based on a 1941 photograph of McDaniel.

1940’s and 1950’s Darlings

Many of the classic movies in American history were produced during the 1940’s and 1950’s. Films such as The Wizard of Oz and Breakfast at Tiffany’s have become staples of American popular culture that are passed down between generations. Four of the most iconic actresses from this time period are; Judy Garland, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, and Marilyn Monroe.

Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962) is an iconic figure in American film history. Monroe began her career as a model, and is most well known for being the first centerfold in Playboy. In addition to her modeling career, Monroe was also an active actress and stared in movies such as, The Seven Year Itch and How to Marry a Millionaire. In 1959 her skills as an actress were acknowledged when she won a Golden Globe for Some Like it Hot. Despite her international fame as an actress and sex symbol, Marilyn Monroe suffered from severe depression. In 1962 Monroe died tragically young from a drug overdose, however since her death Marilyn Monroe has remained an important figure within American culture.

On the anniversary of her birthday, a Marilyn Monroe stamp was issued. The stamp was designed by Michael Deas and was released in Universal City, California. The stamp features a 1950’s photograph of Monroe.

1940’s and 1950’s Darlings

Audrey Hepburn (1929-1993) is one of the most iconic figures in American film. In the 1950’s and 1960’s she starred in now classic movies such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Sabrina. She also starred in Roman Holiday, and won an academy award for her performance in 1953. In addition to her film work, Hepburn was also very successful on Broadway and won a Tony in 1954 for her role Ondine. Although she is most well known for her work as an actress, Audrey Hepburn also did a profuse amount of charity work during her life. Hepburn primarily worked with children and even acted as the goodwill ambassador for UNICEF. Because of her remarkable film and stage career as well as her honorable humanitarian actions, Audrey Hepburn is remembered as one of America’s most timeless classic film stars.

An Audrey Hepburn postage stamp was released as part of the Legends of Hollywood Issue. The stamp was illustrated by Michael Deas and was issued in Los Angeles, California, at the Research Laboratory of the Children’s Hospital.

1940’s and 1950’s Darlings

Grace Kelly (1929-1982) is another one of America’s most beloved classic 1950’s film stars. Kelly received formal training in acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Art. Once she finished her training, she began to receive roles in movies and quickly became a favorite of director Alfred Hitchcock. She appeared in several of Hitchcock’s films including Rear Window, and Dial M for Murder. Two years after her 1954 Academy Award for The Country Girl, Grace Kelly ended her acting career and married Prince Rainer of Monaco. Although her professional career ended when she married, Grace Kelly remained an active and very charitable public figure, who to this day is remembered for her talent on the silver screen.

The Postal Service honored Grace Kelly by featuring her on a United States postage stamp. The stamp was designed by Czeslaw Slania and was issued in Beverly Hills, California.

1940’s and 1950’s Darlings

Judy Garland (1922-1969) won a spot in the history of American film in 1939 when she played the lead role of Dorothy in the movie, The Wizard of Oz. However before her Oscar winning performance in The Wizard of Oz, Judy Garland was a child performer who started out singing and acting. As Garland’s career developed, she received a contract with the major motion picture company, MGM. Once she signed on with MGM Judy Garland had a prolific film career, and stared in many movies with another film legend, Mickey Rooney. Despite her fame, Judy Garland suffered from drug dependency issues and eventually died of an over dose on barbiturates.

In 2006, the Postal Service released a Judy Garland stamp. The stamp was designed by Ethel Kessler and was issued on Garland’s birthday at Carnegie Hall in New York, New York. The stamp features a portrait created by Tim O’Brian that was based on a photo from Garland’s film, “A Star is Born.”


In Women on Stamps: Part 4, we have highlighted the accomplishments of women in the performing arts. Previous sections of the Women on Stamps series have focused on political, professional, literary, and artistic women.

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 3 features women who have made significant contributions to the visual arts and literature.

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:

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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