I had the honor this weekend of speaking at the Festival of Painted Leaves, which is the annual fall festival at the Rose O’Neill Home and Museum north of Branson, Missouri. It’s a reconstructed version of O’Neill’s original home, Bonniebrook, which burned in 1947.
It embarrasses me to admit how little I knew of Rose O’Neill, who is best known today as the creator of the Kewpie, a cute little cartoon figure that became an immensely popular doll in the first half of the twentieth century. As I toured the museum, I realized that Rose O’Neill was much more than the Kewpie’s originator. She was an artist, illustrator, writer, and determined suffragist at a time when woman suffrage was a distinctly minority view.
Between sessions of the festival, I walked a few of the paths and wished I had time to walk more. It was a perfect autumn day, and with the little creek winding below, I could imagine why O’Neill always retreated to Bonniebrook from her trips to New York and overseas.
The museum is nine miles north of Branson, just east of U.S. 65, and if you are there on a vacation, it would make a lovely afternoon respite from the traffic and franchises. I don’t believe it’s open in the winter, though, so check out the website (see link above) and call ahead.