Title: Signed, Abiah Rose
Author and Illustrator: Diane Browning
Publisher: Tricycle Press
Concepts: human resources, discrimination, economics of gender, goods and services
Review: A young woman recalls her love of drawing already as a small child, when she would create pictures on any convenient surface using whatever materials she could find. When it became clear that she had talent, her parents supplied her with paints and canvas, but they discouraged her from signing her paintings. At the time, women were not considered “serious” painters, and she would be viewed as prideful if she signed her name to her work.
This young woman went on to paint fine portraits for people across the countryside when she traveled with her uncle, a peddler with a colorful wagon filled with useful wares for sale. She earned good money and much praise, each time marking her work with a tiny rose instead of her name. Yet she dreamed of a more secure future, one in which she could sign her pieces and sell her work in a shop, remaining anonymous no longer.
Based on an extended period in American history when folk artists traveled for miles to sell their artwork, this book adds life to the widely-held belief that many of these early unsigned portraits were painted by women. Illustrations seeped in folk art add to the historical ambiance, while the subtle text provides a powerful reminder that women’s subservient status during this period could even rob them of their names.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children