BILLINGS, Mont. -- The Western Heritage Center is remembering a famous female cartoonist from Billings. Ethel Hays, a graduate from Billings Senior High, is well-recognized for her illustrations. Historians say she helped reshape the traditional female stereotype in the early 1900s.
Known for her wit and style, Hays was called 'The Cleverist Girl in America' and 'The Foremost Portrayer of the American Girl.' Hays' cartoons featured 'Flappers', young western women from the 1920s. With their knee length skirts and bobbed hair -- flappers were seen as 'scandalous' for their time. Lauren Hunley, a historian at the Western Heritage Center says Hays' cartoons redefined gender norms in the 1920s and 1930s.
"Some of these themes of home life and fashion... she uses those positions to start pushing back against expected gender norms," says Hunley.
Hunley also says Hays was one of the first people to use art therapy to help veterans with PTSD. In addition to her cartoons, Hays illustrated famous children's books such as Humpty Dumpty and A Night Before Christmas.