Readers' Favorite

February 28, 2023

The Rose of Washington Square by Pat Wahler ~ a Review

by Susan Roberts

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.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

book cover of historical fiction novel The Rose of Washington Square by Pat Wahler
January 2023; Evergreen Tree Press; 978-1732387690
ebook, print (391 pages); biographical fiction

Before Beanie Babies and Cabbage Patch Kids, Kewpie dolls were the 'must have' toy of the early 20th century.  They were first drawn as a comic strip character by Rose O'Neill in 1909.  At the time, Rose was the highest-paid female illustrator in the world.  The Rose of Washington Square is the story of Rose and how she achieved success and popularity in a world dominated by men.

Rose was born in 1874 to parents who urged her to use her artistic talent and be successful.  In 1893, she made a trip to New York City to try to sell some of her illustrations.  She was often turned away from the popular magazines strictly because she was a woman.  When her first illustrations were finally accepted and she started making some money, she started sending money home for her family.  The more popular her illustrations became, the more money she sent home.  She began to branch out her artistic talents to comic strips.  Her Kewpie doll comics became very popular with women and children and when she was approached about making a real doll, Kewpie dolls became very popular and the money started rolling in.  She was thrilled with her success but felt that she had to use her money to help support not only her family but also any starving artist that needed help.  During her early time in New York, she married someone who swept her off her feet but ended up cashing her checks and using her money for his own enjoyment.  She divorced him and swore off men until she met an author who intrigued her.  After several years of putting up with his mercurial moods, she divorced him too.  She became very popular in New York and made frequent trips to Europe to meet other artists and take classes.  When she was in New York, she enjoyed having her house full of artists, poets, and authors and having salons where people shared their talents.  She was generous to a  fault, even when the sale of Kewpie dolls diminished she always shared what she had with others.

I really enjoyed Rose's story.  She was a strong woman in a man's world who learned to live life on her terms and fight against the boundaries that women were held to during this time.  Her love life was tumultuous and she always seemed to pick the wrong man for her but once she realized she could be successful without a man by her side, she thrived.  She became deeply involved in the suffragist movement of the time and with the lives and struggles of other artists.  With grit and tenacity, Rose O'Neill blazed an unforgettable path during the tumultuous times of the early 20th century.

Susan Roberts grew up in Michigan but loves the laid-back life at her home in the Piedmont area of North Carolina where she is two hours from the beach to the east and the mountains in the west.  She reads almost anything but her favorite genres are Southern Fiction and Historical Fiction.  

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us. Get even more book news in your inbox, sign up for our newsletter today! Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.


  1. Susan, thank you so much for hosting me and for taking the time to read and review Rose's story.