My mother taught me about the importance of friendship. Her friendship with Olga and Esther lasted all their lives. For Olga, the last remaining friend, that friendship is still fresh. When I visit her, she often tells me stories.
The three girlfriends were all witty. At 90, Olga can still tell a good joke and remember the punch line. My mother was the witty observer, master of the telling phrase. I modeled Sylvia, the character in my comic strip, after Esther, the quick witted, long-legged, bad girl.
I noticed that around our house, my father was to be amused and danced around. And he was amused by my mother and me. He had very little humor himself. I always thought of women as the funny ones. My mother's humor was wonderful and inventive. My father was her audience. He would always rather be in the kitchen with the women than with the other husbands. I noted that as well. When the feminist movement appeared on my horizon, I knew I had found my direction.
I always drew as a child, but certainly no one thought it would be a career. I was allowed to be a painting major at the University, because it probably wouldn't hurt my chances to meet a wonderful man and get married. Sexist thinking worked to my advantage.
It was during the Carter administration that I got my chance to blend drawing with humor. I redesigned and then did illustrations for a publication called "The Spokeswoman." It was feminism and humor that made me a cartoonist.
My mother's humor never made her happy. My father was a difficult man. His legacy to me was politics; a vision of the world in which there are “haves” and “have-nots” and your duty is to be on the side of the “have-nots”. My dad didn't live to see my cartoon in the Sun-Times. He would have gotten a great kick out of seeing me in the paper. My mother was delighted. She often announced she was Sylvia's mother. When people would complain to her that my cartoon was obscure – what the heck was my point anyway – she was dismissive. Try again tomorrow, she would say, as if they would get smarter by tomorrow.
Nicole Hollander is the creator and writer of the syndicated cartoon strip Sylvia, which appears in over 40 newspapers nationwide. Hollander’s cartoons have been collected and published in l6 books. In addition to writing and illustrating, she currently teaches a course in conceptual illustration at Columbia College in Chicago. Hollander received her B.F.A. from the University of Illinois and her M.F.A from Boston University. Her work is included in the Library of Congress cartoon collection and The Cartoon Research Library at Ohio State University.
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Jewish Women's Archive. "Nicole Hollander." (Viewed on June 16, 2021) <https://jwa.org/feminism/hollander-nicole>.