Barbara Shermund Burial Fund

This GoFundMe will cover the cost of the burial and grave-marker for cartoonist Barbara Shermund (1899-1978).

Barbara Shermund, an incredibly prolific and pioneering feminist cartoonist, died on September 9, 1978 at the age of 80, leaving behind a major, yet unheralded body of work, including hundreds of New Yorker cartoons and 9 covers, decades of publishing with Esquire, Life, Colliers, Judge, and more. At the time of her death, New York newspapers were on strike and, as a result, an obituary was never published.

Shermund’s relationships with her family were strained. She had a wonderful childhood—born an only-child in 1899 to a sculptor and an architect, Fredda Cool and Henry Shermund—her passions for art and dance were strongly supported and encouraged by her parents. All of that was upended, however, in 1918 when Barbara’s mother died of influenza, and her world was shattered. Years later, her father married a woman 31 years his junior and a shocking 8 years younger than Barbara. Her father and his new wife would go on to have more children. Barbara, in New York by then, eventually became estranged from them both.

When Amanda Gormley, daughter of Barbara Shermund’s much younger half-sister, began researching her life in 2011, she tried desperately to find out where Shermund was buried so she could pay her respects. No gravesite could be identified. Finally, she contacted local funeral homes in the area of New Jersey where Shermund passed away, asking whether or not they had any information the location of Shermund’s remains. “She’s still here with us!” was the surprising reply she received from the John Pfleger Funeral Home. 35 years after her death and cremation, no one had ever even claimed her cremains.

Gormley claimed the ashes and has cared for them since.

With a new exhibit at The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum celebrating Barbara’s legacy, "Tell Me A Story Where The Bad Girl Wins: The Life and Art of Barbara Shermund" and the hopes of a book collecting her work in the near future, we feel it is time to finally put her to rest.

Shermund’s mother, Fredda Cool, is buried in an unmarked grave in a cemetery near San Francisco. The cemetery has approved our plan to bury Shermund alongside her mother. The donations will cover reopening her mother’s grave, placing Barbara’s ashes in a permanent urn, laying her ashes in her mother’s plot, closing the grave and creating a name marker for both Barbara and her mother, as well as permits and fees. With your help, we can honor this pioneer feminist cartoonist’s life and as well as her death.

Testimonial from Caitlin McGurk: I fell in love with Barbara Shermund’s work 7 years ago, and have been researching her ever since.  When I first found out about her, I thought, “How have I never heard of this artist before? How could such a brilliant and prolific cartoonist be forgotten?” and more pointedly, “What does her absence in cartoon art history say about the representation of women working in this field?” Little has been written about Shermund’s work*, and so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to curate "Tell Me A Story Where The Bad Girl Wins: The Life and Art of Barbara Shermund" for the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, where a substantial amount of Shermund’s work is preserved. My interest in Shermund goes deeper than a general appreciation, though. If you’re reading this, and you’re someone who has ever been deeply and genuinely touched by a piece of art, or a song, or a film, you may relate. I feel a profound and personal connection to Barbara’s work that I cannot define. And if I can be part of the process of celebrating her life and laying her to rest, as a fan and a scholar, there is no greater honor. Further, when Amanda told me about Shermund’s family history, and what happened to her ashes, my heart broke in pieces. I also lost my mother when I was a child, and I can relate all too well to both the extreme isolation, grief, and upheaval that early mother loss causes, as well as the sense of independence and introspection that it inspires. And I can see all of it in her work and I understand it. I hope that if you have ever loved an artist so much that you feel you know them intimately, or perhaps that they know you, that you will consider contributing.

*With the exception of sections in Liza Donnelly’s "Funny Ladies" and "Judith Yaross Lee’s Defining New Yorker Humor".

Testimonial from Amanda Gormley: As a little girl growing up in San Francisco, I was vaguely aware that I had an aunt Barbara who was an artist. She was not a part of family interactions or discussions so I never understood that family dynamic - that my grandfather, who died when I was a year old, had a daughter from his first marriage. 

After the sudden death of my brother in 2010, I found myself seeking answers to questions never asked. One of those questions was, “who is Barbara Shermund?” And so began the research into Barbara Shermund’s life in 2011 on the first anniversary of my brother’s death. 

By 2012, I had read Caitlin’s blog about her love of Barbara’s work, had read Liza Donnelly’s book “Funny Ladies of the New Yorker” and had poured over hundreds of images of Barbara’s art found on the internet. In 2013 I also found Barbara’s ashes sitting in a can on the shelf of a funeral home where they had been since 1978. So I brought her home. And then I found her mother, in an unmarked grave. 

Using available media, research libraries and genealogy sites I also learned about Barbara’s marriage to Ludwig Sander, an important and famous Manhattan abstract artist who ascended to fame in the 1950s and 1960s. 

The journey of finding Barbara has been complicated, emotional and nuanced - like the trip to the Jersey Shore where some of her most personal possessions were found sequestered in the attic of an antique store owner. Personal possessions which included letters from Barbara’s father (my grandfather) and letters from Ludwig Sander while he served in Germany during WWII. Her passport and sketchbooks. Imagine. 

In 2017, after years of collecting and researching Barbara’s art and marshaling her personal effects, I reached out to Caitlin McGurk at the Billy Ireland and shared what is now known about Barbara’s life, both personally and professionally. 

The exhibit at the Billy Ireland, which runs through March 31, 2019, has been a labor of love and respect for a commanding female artist whose life was all but forgotten. The final homage, however, is yet to be and that is to place Barbara in her final resting place with her mother. 

Thank you for your consideration and generosity of heart.

Testimonial from Liza Donnelly: When I discovered Barbara Shermund, I felt I had discovered a kindred soul. As a cartoonist myself, I understand how hard it is to do what she did, and appreciate her immense skill. Her work not only had a beautiful artistic flare, but also in her ideas and captions she was able to capture her voice,  as I envisioned it. She was an early feminist cartoonist, and I love that! Barbara gave us so much- beautiful imagery and a peek into the world she lived many years ago, from the eye of a sharp wit. She deserves a headstone near her mother. I’ll be visiting, to thank her.

More About Barbara: Barbara Shermund is an unheralded early master of gag cartooning. Her sharp wit and loose style boldly tapped the zeitgeist of first-wave feminism with vivid characters that were alive and astute. Shermund’s women spoke their minds about sex, marriage, and society; smoked cigarettes and drank; and poked fun at everything in an era when it was not common to see young women doing so. Born in San Francisco in 1899, Shermund briefly attended the California School of Fine Arts before relocating to New York City. As one of the first women cartoonists to work for The New Yorker after its launch in 1925, she created nine covers and hundreds of cartoons for the magazine. Shermund later became a mainstay at Esquire, contributed to Life and Collier’s among other magazines, and had her syndicated newspaper cartoon Shermund’s Sallies published by King Features for decades. Shermund illustrated a variety of books for such notable authors as John Phillip Sousa III and Clare Luce Booth. In the 1940s and 50s, she was hired to illustrate advertisements for Pepsi-Cola, Ponds, and other major corporations during an exceptionally male-dominated time in advertising (think pre-Mad Men). In 1950, Shermund was among the first three women to be accepted as a member of the National Cartoonist Society. Shermund lived an extremely private life, and traveled extensively for a young woman in the 1920s and 30s. Without ever having a formal studio space, she preferred drawing at the kitchen table, and should an idea strike her in the middle of the night, she slept with a notepad and pencil under her pillow.

Columbus Dispatch article, "New exhibit highlights stunning satirical cartoons of early feminist":

Explore more of Shermund's work at the Billy Ireland:
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    • $20 
    • 38 mos
  • Nicole Hollander 
    • $25 
    • 38 mos
  • Katie Skelly 
    • $50 
    • 38 mos
  • Bruce Simon 
    • $25 
    • 38 mos
  • Thomas Spurgeon 
    • $1,056 
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Fundraising team (3)

Caitlin McGurk 
Raised $2,842 from 66 donations
Columbus, OH
Amanda Janes