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Marjorie Buell and Little Lulu

Author Shelley Fraser Mickle
Air Date 12/12/2001

Marjorie Buell and Little Lulu Transcript

It’s the birthday today of Marjorie Buell, the creator of one of the first comics about an empowered little girl, the incomparable Little Lulu, who has Shelley Fraser Mickle remembering. 

Take it from one who knows, when you are a child, the toughest job you face is becoming civilized. Huckleberry Finn had a lot to say about this. And when I was growing up in the 1950s, boys looked to Dennis the Menace as a sort of comrade in arms. But I had Lulu. 

Let’s face it, learning the ways of civilized society can put a lot of stress and strain on a child. It’s more than learning how to use a fork and to NOT lick the serving spoon. There’s all that business about having to share, and practicing something called “showing respect to your elders,” which in my day meant saying “Mam” and “Sir” as often as you might use sugar and salt. And for girls, there was a strong message called, “BE SWEET.” 

Yet here was Lulu. The star of her own comic. Her last name was Moppet. She wasn’t a tomboy exactly. She played with dolls and did the things that girls were traditionally supposed to do. Yet she used her intelligence and girlish ways to outsmart the other characters in her comic strip: kids named Tubby, Alvin, Wilber, Iggy, and the East Side Gang. I stood up and cheered at the breakfast table the day I opened the comics and saw her walk by the Boys Club House where the words were painted on the front “No Girls Allowed,” and she added a “W” to the word “No” so that the sign read “Now Girls Allowed.” 

Yes, Lulu was my hero. She wasn’t my heroine, she was my hero. Furthermore, when my mother wound my hair up on rags to sleep on at night, so that in the morning I would have tube-shaped curls springing on my shoulders, I didn’t much mind. Lulu Moppet had the same hairdo, and yet underneath she was a rascal equal to any task that popped up in her comic strip. 

The original Lulu comics were drawn by Marge Henderson Buell and appeared in the Saturday Evening Post in 1934, where for over a decade Lulu “owned” that last page of that prestigious and popular magazine. In 1945, John Stanley took over drawing Lulu. And today, an original Lulu comic book can fetch about $700. But if you ask me, Lulu’s lessons are priceless. 

Posted in Comics, Stories