Opinion: The rise of the female cartoonist

Female comedians and cartoonists are nothing new, but it hasn’t always been easy for women to make headway in what has been a male-dominated arena. Times seem to be changing though – at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe two of the three Edinburgh Comedy Awards were won by women and women took the two top spots in the newcomer’s competition. But what about on greeting cards?

Annie Tempest’s Tottering By Gently is one of the best-selling ranges for Peartree Heybridge.
Annie Tempest’s Tottering By Gently is one of the best-selling ranges for Peartree Heybridge.

Mike Partridge, managing director of Peartree Heybridge, has been publishing humorous cards for over 20 years, including Camilla & Rose (by Sarah Boddy), Tottering by Gently (from Annie Tempest) and Spring Chicken (from the late Bev Williams). These three – all by women cartoonists – are three of the company’s most popular ranges. He explains why he thinks the cartoons strike a chord: “To some extent the situations are either autobiographical and/or the result of the powers of observation. They are not fantasy. They are based on real life. These artists are women, drawing cartoons for other women. Customers can personally relate to the situations and it feels like the artist knows a little bit about your life.”

Bev Williams passed away at the end of 2016, but her Spring Chicken range is still one of top sellers for Peartree Heybridge.
Bev Williams passed away at the end of 2016, but her Spring Chicken range is still one of top sellers for Peartree Heybridge.

The customer-base for these products tends to be an older audience, as Mike puts it: “the middle-classed ladies that lunch. They are buying these cards for their friends of a similar age. The bulk of the cards we sell are blank cards. We know our customers buy on impulse, not necessarily for a particular friend, but just to put away for when a card is needed.”

These three ranges sell well year-in, year-out as every year more women fall into the category that these cards appeal to. “Our product appeal is for that older audience and we know our audience very, very well,” says Mike. “They are affluent, articulate and have time on their hands.”

One of the first designs Sarah Boddy did for Camilla & Rose around 15 years ago is still one of the best sellers.
One of the first designs Sarah Boddy did for Camilla & Rose around 15 years ago is still one of the best sellers.

As to why the cartoons have stood the test of time, Mike thinks it is quite simple: “The types of issues that were affecting women 10 or 20 years ago are still affecting them today. All those things about getting older are just as funny today as they were years ago. Women are much better at laughing at themselves than men are. As men age they get tight-lipped about being older. Women see the funny side.”

Read the rest of the article about Funny Women in the Humour supplement out with the May issue of Progressive Greetings magazine next week.

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