On the quiet sixth floor of the University of Texas at Arlington library, Etta Hulme’s political cartoons speak loudly.
The artist’s laconic, keen wit and uncanny insight mesh in the display Drawn to Politics: The Editorial Art of Etta Hulme, which runs through August.
“Hulme's ability to boil things down into an entertaining, to-the-point illustration that would also draw a chuckle or a smirk — or sometimes an angry backlash — was quite astonishing,” says O.K. Carter, who served with Hulme on the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s editorial board.
Hulme’s family donated more than 100 boxes of the cartoonist’s illustrations and papers to UTA after her death in 2014, librarian Beverly Carver says. While only a small portion of the collection is on display, Carver says it reveals how “we still deal with the same issues.”
The free, self-guided exhibit also offers glimpses of Hulme as a girl from Somerville, Texas, who spent her spare time drawing on butcher paper and as a woman who worked with the Walt Disney Co. It transitions from her time as a freelancer to achieving syndication to lampooning presidents.
“She was one of the first female cartoonists in the nation,” says UTA political science associate professor Allan Saxe. “And that alone is important.”
Saxe says political cartoons rarely have persuasive powers and typically only appeal to those of the same mindset. Hulme’s cartoons generated feedback.
Paul Harral, vice president of the Star-Telegram’s opinion page until 2009, says Hulme was a grandmotherly woman with a mind like a steel trap and a brush like an avenging sword.
“She was strong on gun control, which made her a — pardon me — target among some gun owners,” he says. “I don't specifically remember the cartoon, but someone mailed it back to me with bullet holes in it. I showed it to Etta, and she just laughed.”
Harral says his favorite cartoon was one in which Hulme drew some big buildings, labeled them "Jale" and showed two guards talking about how perhaps more money should have been spent on education.
“I suspect that many of her cartoons wound up on refrigerator doors — the most significant recognition of all,” Harral says. “I don't know how she did it, but I am sure glad she did, and partially on my watch.”
Hulme seemed to enjoy when her cartoons stirred somebody into a froth.
“If I go on too long without one of my cartoons gettin' me in a soup, I start to worry,” Hulme once said, according to her obituary. “A cartoonist ought to provoke.”
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Former coworker John Dycus described Hulme as someone who was insightful as she was kind.
Carter says Hulme also had a knack for knowing who was going to be big in the future.
“Donald Trump, for instance, began showing up in her work as early as the late 1990s,” he says. “That's astonishingly perceptive.”
According to the handout, Drawn to Politics: The Editorial Art of Etta Hulme “documents the career of an artist and advocate for women, one who stood firm in her opinions and spent her life doing what she loved.”