Celebrating life and legacy of Jackie Ormes

OV Digital Desk
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Jackie Ormes

Image Courtesy: Google Doodle

Jackie Ormes (1 August 1911 – 26 December 1985) was an American cartoonist. She is known as the first African-American woman cartoonist and creator of the Torchy Brown comic strip and the Patty-Jo ‘n’ Ginger panel. Jackie Ormes’s cartoons had an immense impact on society.

Life and Career

Jackie Ormes, whose birth name was Zelda Mavin Jackson, was a trailblazing African-American cartoonist and writer who broke barriers in the world of comics. Born on August 1, 1911, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, she became the first African-American woman to gain recognition as a cartoonist, using her talent and creativity to challenge racial stereotypes and advocate for social justice.

Early Life

Jackie Ormes’ formative years played a crucial role in shaping her identity and career:

Born into a working-class family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Ormes experienced the challenges and opportunities of the early 20th century. Her upbringing instilled values of perseverance and a strong work ethic, which would serve her well in her future endeavors.

Ormes attended the University of Pittsburgh, where she developed her artistic skills and discovered her passion for storytelling. She was influenced by the writings of renowned African-American authors and the emerging cultural and social movements of the time. These early influences laid the foundation for her career as a writer and cartoonist.

Jackie Ormes’ career in journalism and comics was marked by innovation and a commitment to social change:

  • Journalism and Reporting: Ormes began her career as a journalist and reporter for the Pittsburgh Courier, a prominent African-American newspaper. Her work allowed her to engage with the issues affecting the Black community and provided her with a platform to voice her concerns about social injustice.
  • Pioneering Comic Strips: In 1937, Jackie Ormes made history by creating her first comic strip, “Torchy Brown in Dixie to Harlem”. Torchy Brown, an African-American heroine, navigated the challenges of the era, breaking racial and gender stereotypes. This marked a significant milestone in the history of African-American comics.
  • “Patty-Jo ‘n’ Ginger”: Ormes’ most iconic creation was the comic strip “Patty-Jo ‘n’ Ginger,” which debuted in 1945. The strip featured two sisters, Patty-Jo and Ginger, who represented different facets of African-American womanhood. Patty-Jo was an intellectual and social commentator, while Ginger was a glamorous socialite. Through their adventures, Ormes addressed issues such as racial inequality, civil rights, and the challenges faced by African-American women. The strip combined entertainment with social commentary, making it a powerful and influential work. Jackie Ormes Patty Jo doll creation was most valuable work of her.
  • Advocacy Through Comics: Throughout her career, Jackie Ormes used her comic strips as a platform to advocate for civil rights and challenge racial stereotypes. Her work was a precursor to the social justice comics of later generations, demonstrating the power of the medium to address critical issues.

Jackie Ormes passed away on December 26, 1985. Her legacy as a pioneering cartoonist and advocate for social change lives on through her work and the impact she had on the world of comics.

Awards and Recognition

Ormes’ contributions to the world of comics have been acknowledged posthumously, and she has received several awards and honours:

  1. Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame: In 2018, Jackie Ormes was posthumously inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame, one of the highest honors in the comic book industry. This recognition solidified her status as a trailblazer in the field.


Jackie Ormes’ legacy extends far beyond her lifetime and continues to inspire and influence:

  1. Trailblazer for African American Women: Jackie Ormes shattered barriers and paved the way for future generations of African American women in the world of comics. Her achievements demonstrated that talent and determination could overcome the racial and gender biases of her era.
  2. Social Commentary and Advocacy: Ormes’ commitment to addressing social issues through her comics was ahead of its time. Her work challenged prevailing stereotypes and contributed to discussions on race, gender, and social justice. She demonstrated the power of comics as a medium for social commentary and change.

The characters she created, particularly Patty-Jo and Torchy Brown, remain influential figures in African-American pop culture. Her work continues to be celebrated and studied, underscoring its enduring relevance.

Jackie Ormes also created paper dolls based on her characters, providing young African-American girls with dolls that looked like them. This representation in play was a significant contribution to promoting positive self-identity among African-American children.

Jackie Ormes’ life and career exemplify the transformative power of art and storytelling. Her groundbreaking comic strips challenged racial and gender stereotypes while advocating for civil rights and social justice. Her legacy as a pioneering African-American cartoonist continues to inspire and influence the world of comics, making her an enduring icon and a champion for representation and equality. Jackie Ormes’ remarkable journey serves as a testament to the capacity of individuals to effect change through creativity and dedication, leaving an indelible mark on American culture and society.

On 1 September 2020, Google celebrated Jackie Ormes with a doodle.

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