Sunday, August 23, 2015

Rejection Letter from Walt Disney Studios, 1938

Rejection letter to an aspiring young artist, 1938
(click to enlarge)

June 7, 1938

Dear Miss Ford:

Your letter of recent date has been received in the Inking and Painting Department for reply.
Women do not do any of the creative work in connection with preparing the cartoons for the screen, as that work is performed entirely by young men. For this reason girls are not considered for training school.

The only work open to women consists of tracing the characters on clear celluloid sheets with India ink and filling in the tracings on the reverse side with paint according to directions.

In order to apply for a position as "Inker" or "Painter" it is necessary that one appear at the Studio bringing samples of pen and ink and watercolor work. It would not be advisable to come to Hollywood with the above specifically in view, as there are really very few openings in comparison with the number of girls who apply.

Yours very truly,

Mary Chase


This post was totally unplanned, and inspired by an "old" (2013) file I had stored on my computer and discovered last night. I thought I'd post it here as a more contemporary example of William Sparrow's speculation (found in the introduction of my previous post) concerning the the presence of female artistry during the Renaissance. In the quote, Sparrow speculates that women were given the opportunity to became artists in Italy during the Renaissance, simply because the majority of men's efforts were concentrated on matters of warfare.

The (above) is an actual letter, posted to a Flickr page, by NY graphic artist, Kevin Burg. It is a 75-year old letter saved by his artist-grandmother, Mary Ford, which Burg discovered after she passed away. Sadly, we are given no further information about her life after she received this letter... just Berg's closing comment: "The letter speaks for itself and it's remarkable to note how times have changed since then."

Olivia Fleming, on the other hand, in a Daily Mail article describing the letter, goes on to make the statement: "It wasn't until 1944, largely because of men who left their Disney posts after Pearl Harbor, that the first Ink and Painter, Reidun Medby, was promoted to an 'assistant animator' position."

So, between Sparrow's first speculation and Fleming's observation, we might to come to this (pathetic) conclusion: men have to go off to war and get themselves killed or disabled in order for women to even begin to fulfill their potential as creative, autonomous individuals outside of their archetypal roles as mother or wife.

Come to think of it, young women experienced a resurgence of power in the 1960's - via the Feminist movement - during the time of the Vietnam war. Coincidence?

Following this line of speculation, however, well, wars do end eventually... at which point in time, women start having babies again to replenish the war-diminished population... and seemingly fade - or are conveniently made to fade - everywhere else. Is this the answer to Judy Chicago's observation (found, once again, in my previous post) regarding the strange fluctuations of women's achievements and their unfortunate tendency to be "disappeared"?

Just wondering.

Regarding "how much times have changed", well, yes and no.

You'll note, for example, after reading Fleming's article that, despite its largely informational content, and in spite of its having appeared in an online newspaper section entitled "Femail," almost every comment to this article contains the virulent rants (or petulant whines) of - you guessed it - a misogynist.


Back to work.

For more information: Coloring the Kingdom - The Women Animators and Inkers Behind Disney's Golden Age.


Note on the appearance of this blog: I've grown tired of the previous background, and am experimenting with other possibilities. And, don't be surprised if the overall appearance of this blog changes. I've also begun using italic for the quotes instead of the main body text (In other words, the more typical usage of type styles) - I've also changed my previous post to reflect this change - only because the text seems slightly easier to read. I may make other changes in the near future, futzing around until I find a design I'm comfortable with.


  1. Re the ups and downs of war and reproduction and female empowerment and disempowerment, I'm just not up to thinking about it today. Like I said about a week ago, according to those who have their ear to the cosmic underground, the current period provides a window for empowerment, but it's a small window! I love the letterhead, thanks for posting.

    1. Thanks for commenting!
      Re: "war and reproduction and female empowerment and disempowerment". Just a minor thought experiment, thrown out there on a whim.

  2. A most intriguing post...and yes, as you point out, one can see the correlations between war and the empowerment of women. I think it's sad that it takes war to do so but hey, at least SOMETHING positive comes of it.

    Excellent post.