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Creator of the Kewpie Doll - an Editorial Review of "The Rose of Washington Square"

Book Blurb:

She set out to make her way in a man's world, rising from obscurity into one of the most famous women of her era.

Self-taught artist Rose O'Neill leaves the Midwest for New York in 1893, determined to become an illustrator in a field dominated by males. Mindful of her duty to the impoverished family she left behind, Rose’s obligations require her to yield to the men who hold the reins of her career; as well as the men she grows to love.

Yet despite every obstacle facing her, she excels at her craft, eventually designing a new character, the Kewpie. Her creation explodes into a phenomenon, but Rose’s disenchantment with the status quo fosters new ambitions. She must decide whether to remain within the boundaries dictated for her, or risk everything she’s gained to pursue the creative and personal passions that ignite her soul.

With grit and tenacity, Rose O'Neill blazed an unforgettable path during the tumultuous times of the early 20th century.

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Author Bio:

Pat Wahler is an award-winning writer of historical fiction and romance, who aims to pen stories a reader will savor. She lives in Missouri with her family, including a Peek-a-Poo pup named Winston; and Bogey, a tabby with plenty of attitude. An avid reader, Pat loves rescue animals, humor, curious tidbits from history, musicals, and pretending she knows how to sing and dance.

A frequent contributor to the Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies; Pat's work has also appeared in Reader’s Digest, Storyteller Magazine, and many other publications. Her debut novel, I AM MRS. JESSE JAMES, was an Amazon #1 bestseller in Historical Romance. This story of love, loss, and redemption is based on true events and told from the point of view of Zee James, wife of the infamous outlaw. The novel received a Silver IPPY Medal for Midwest Best Regional Fiction from the Independent Publishers Book Awards, was named the Best First Novel of 2018 by Western Fictioneers, and won the 2019 Walter Williams Award for a Major Work.

Other honors her books have received include the CIBA Chatelaine Book Awards, Readers' Favorite, InD'Tale Magazine's Crowned Heart of Excellence, CIBA Laramie Book Awards, CIBA Goethe Book Awards, Eric Hoffer Award, American Book Fest, Indie Book Awards, and Midwest Independent Publishers' Association.

Pat enjoys connecting with readers. You can sign up for her infrequently sent newsletter at: You can also find her on the following platforms:

Editorial Review:

The Rose of Washington Square outlines the life of a truly remarkable woman. Rose O’Neill was a prolific creator of comics, illustrations, books, art, sculptures, toys and virtually anything related to the art and literary fields. This novel showcases her talent, generosity, and unbridled creativity in a beautiful manner.

The Rose of Washington Square is a fictionalized account of the life of the real Rose O’Neill. The author mentions that curating information relating to Rose proved challenging as accounts of her accomplishments and life were haphazard and lacking a coherent thread. Despite these obstacles, the author does a wonderful job creating that cohesion and forming a complete story of her life.

In the novel, at the age of 19, Rose travels to New York in search of a job, money, and recognition. Due to her consistent efforts and huge talent, she finds all of those and more. Despite not receiving a formal education in the arts, she is able to prove herself as a serious artist. Her steadfast belief in herself, her worth and her creativity is admirable. Readers get a feeling for this in the following quote when Rose is trying to prove herself to an editor, “Creativity doesn’t require a teacher, and technique can be learned if the pupil is eager enough to study on her own.

Her stay in New York elevates her within the artistic scene. Her description of New York is apt and likely still fitting for today, “No other place brought my senses so fully alive. New York City must truly be the center of the universe. A place where even the impossible seemed possible.” Readers are taken on a wonderful journey where they are able to witness Rose’s dream transform from the impossible realm to the possible. Rose’s illustrations appeal to many readers, and she soon finds herself inundated with projects and work. One of the reasons it seems that her work is so relatable is that she is able to inject humor into her sketches and art, thus providing escapism for the consumers. Her description of life and how she intends to portray it reveal her inner understanding of the human condition, “Real life is made of tragedy, joy, and everyday occurrences. In my opinion, the humor in a situation is what keeps hope alive.”

Rose proves herself to be a truly multidimensional human being with a vast array of talents and interests. Moreover, she has a deep sense of inner resolve and conviction around issues that are important to her. During the late 1800’s, Rose was trying to enter a very male dominated world. Despite the immediate and obvious setbacks and discrimination that she faced, she persevered. Divorce was also considered taboo during that time. Again, despite this, when her marriages failed and did not work out, she filed for divorce so as not to live under anyone’s thumb. Her independence and freedom are two things which are clearly important to her.

It is no surprise that she is also a champion of the suffragette movement which was causing ripples of change during that time. Rose certainly was a woman with many missions. Her desire to elevate creatives and provide them with the means to sustain themselves while pursuing their artistic endeavors was truly admirable. When Rose was at the height of her fame, fortune, and success, she used the funds to help as many people in need as she could. Her conversation with her mother, Meemie, reveals how disappointed she felt in the manner in which society treats creative people, “What a shame it’s so hard for creative people to make a living. It’s why they give up their passion. For the sake of practicality, they abandon art for some unremarkable job, then spend their life thinking of what might have been.” This seems to be a conundrum which unfortunately survives to this day. Meemie’s response is equally wise, “Practicality usually triumphs over whimsy, although in truth I can’t imagine a world without art and books.”

While Rose navigates her success, work, marriages, and divorces there are many tumultuous, historical events which cast heavy shadows on her bright and busy life. The advent of World War I causes immense strain and sadness. Following that is the Spanish flu, prohibition, and the Great Depression. The Great Depression serves as the nail in the coffin to Rose’s success. When people no longer have funds to feed themselves and eat, they no longer pay for whimsy, art, and literary luxuries. It is a tragedy to see Rose fall from the heights of success into little more than penury after all that she has created.

Despite finishing off her days in a humble manner, her legacy speaks for itself. Rose was a pioneer for women and society in many ways. I personally enjoyed reading about Rose’s life and watching her flourish. She was able to navigate difficult situations and move from strength to strength with grace and ease. I found this to be a gentle, whimsical, and poignant read. Witnessing Rose pour her heart and soul into her creative endeavors and seeing the fruits of her labor bloom in such a magnificent way is truly inspiring. It helps readers see what is possible when determination, talent and steadfast consistency are combined. Rose was an unstoppable creative force, and it seems that people around her couldn’t help but become swept up in her artistic vortex.

It honored the real Rose in such an eloquent and beautiful manner. It also portrayed her as completely human with human flaws as well as astronomical talent. She is relatable while also being a genius. Overall, The Rose of Washington Square was a pleasure to read, and I extend my gratitude to the author for engaging in what must have been painstaking research and finessing each detail within the novel to reflect the life and personality of the true Rose O’Neill.


“The Rose of Washington Square” by Pat Wahler receives five stars and the “Highly Recommended” award of excellence from The Historical Fiction Company



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