Page from The Jessie Willcox Smith’s Mother Goose, 1914.
Jesse Willcox Smith, 1863-1935, was born in Philadelphia. She was an American illustrator famous for her work in magazines such as Ladies Home Journal and for her illustrations for children's books.
Despite the rigid, Victorian social climate of Philadelphia, opportunities were available for women to pursue artistic interests. In 1885, Smith entered the School of Design for Women in Philadelphia. Here women were encouraged to pursue traditional crafts such as needlework. Seeking more rigourous training, Smith left to enrol in the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. While at the Academy, her first published illustration, Three Little Maidens All in a Row, appeared in the May 1888 issue of the children's magazine, St. Nicholas. The same year, she graduated from the Academy and accepted a position in the advertising department of the Ladies Home Journal.
She was a prolific contributor to books and magazines during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, illustrating stories and articles for clients such as Century, Collier’s Weekly, Harper’s, and Scribner’s, and the Ladies’ Home Journal.
Smith may be most well known for her covers on Good Housekeeping, which she painted from December 1917 through March 1933. She also painted posters and portraits. Her twelve illustrations for Charles Kingley’s The Water Babies, 1916, are also well known. On Smith's death, she bequeathed the original works to the Library of Congress’ "Cabinet of American Illustration" collection. (A thirteenth illustration remains in a private collection.)