Etta Grace Parks Hulme was one of the first woman political cartoonists in the United States and one of the first women to join the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC). She was born to Charles Edward Parks and Grace (Redford) Parks on December 22, 1923, in Somerville, Texas. She spent her time after school and during her summers working at her parents’ grocery store. At the age of sixteen she enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin where she studied formal art. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts in 1944.
Following graduation, Etta headed to California where she spent the next two years, (1944–46) working for Walt Disney Studios as an animator. At Disney, she refined her skills and developed techniques for facial expressions and body language. During World War II many of the male animators and cartoonists found themselves in military services; their absence left the door open for women to enter the profession. Traditionally women in the studios worked in the ink-and-paint department touching up the men’s artwork. The war gave women the opportunity to advance their skills and allowed them to work on commercial and theatrical cartoons as well as government war propaganda and morale-boosting films. Etta Parks worked at in-betweening (figure movements between key poses) and breakdowns. She worked on war propaganda films and some feature films such as Song of the South (1946) and Make Mine Music! (1946).
After California, Etta traveled around the country and did freelance work in commercial and advertising art. She worked in Dallas, Corpus Christi, Houston, Midland, and Fort Worth. She continued freelancing in advertising even after finding permanent work as an artist. As a commercial artist her work centered mostly on drawing calendars and cowboys for local Texas businesses. She also drew a number of greeting cards as well as her own annual family holiday cards.
In 1950 Etta Parks moved to Chicago, Illinois, where she attended the Art Institute at night. There she took a course in lithography. While studying in Chicago, she met with publisher J. Charles Laue at Dearfield Publishing Company. He offered her a job illustrating a comic book called “Red” Rabbit, a parody of the Red Ryder. “Red” Rabbit featured an outlaw-fighting cowboy, his sidekick Punchy, and his horse Glueboy. After completing her program at the Art Institute, Etta returned to Texas where she continued to submit her work for “Red” Rabbit through the mail.
Etta Parks married Vernon Cagle Hulme in Kitzingen, Germany, where Vernon was stationed in the U. S. Army, in 1952. While in Bamberg, Germany, she did some teaching. Once Vernon was discharged from the army, the couple moved to Austin, Texas. Vernon returned to school to finish his degree in chemical engineering, while Etta stayed home with their first child and continued to freelance in commercial art.
Etta Hulme began to draw editorial cartoons in 1954 and submitted her first work to the Texas Observer. She produced one cartoon a week for the paper and earned $5.00 per cartoon. During this time her work focused on Texas and civil rights legislation. After multiple moves, Vernon, Etta, and their four children—Charles, John, Kay, and Helen—moved back to North Texas.
In search of cartooning work, Etta submitted samples of her work to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and made “a nuisance” of herself until the Star-Telegram agreed to print some of her work on a freelance basis. The work eventually turned into a regular job in 1972 with Hulme producing six cartoons a week for the afternoon edition of the paper. In the beginning, she earned $15.00 per cartoon she submitted, and she had free reign on selecting ideas for her cartoons. Often her cartoons reflected a wildly divergent view from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s previous editorialists. She was the first woman in the paper’s editorial department.
Hulme worked from a gazebo in her backyard. She drew about any topic—from politics, social commentary, and civil rights to issues of war and peace. Her inspiration came from watching news programs, reading, and keeping up with all current events. She read national papers such as the Wall Street Journal and Time, watched CBS morning news, and created her own subject files at home. Of all of the subjects, one of her favorites to draw was women’s issues, particularly the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). She continued to support the ERA by drawing cartoons and lending her voice to the cause.
In 1978 Hulme became the first woman editorial cartoonist to be syndicated when she was picked up by the Newspapers Enterprise Association (NEA). As a result, her work went from appearing in one newspaper to more than 700 different papers that subscribed to the NEA syndicate (1982). Her cartoons joined the lineup of the NEA’s weekly publication, Daily Service and subsequently readers around the globe saw her cartoons.
By 1981 Hulme was still one of only three women editorial cartoonists in the nation. She served as the first woman president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC) in 1987. When she had first attended an annual meeting of the AAEC as a guest of Harold Maples (the Star Telegram’s other editorial cartoonist) in 1971, she was the only woman artist in attendance. During her term as president she organized the annual meeting in Washington, D. C. Hulme made history again when she was the first woman to receive the Best Editorial Cartoonists Reuben Award given by the National Cartoonists Society in 1982. She won the title again in 1998. Though she never won the Pulitzer for her work, her cartoons earned a number of other acclamations. She won second place in the Fischetti Editorial Cartoon Competition, awarded annually to a professional cartoonist for cartoons on current social and political subjects published in a daily or weekly newspaper, in 1982. In 1986 Hulme took top honors at the Fort Worth chapter of Women in Communications when she received the Margaret Caskey Award, which recognizes outstanding professional women in communication who make significant contributions to their field. In 1994 Hulme was honored by the city of Fort Worth as one of the Outstanding Women of Fort Worth. She was frequently featured in a series of publications titled Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year by Pelican Publishing. In 1996 Pelican Publishing approached Hulme about compiling a solo work; they published the first collection of her editorial artwork and appropriately titled the piece Ettatorials: The Best of Etta Hulme (1998).
Etta Hulme’s final editorial cartoon appeared in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in December 2008. The cartoon featured a last jab at President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Though she “officially” retired in 2008, she never really retired. She continued to draw and remained opinionated until the very end.
Etta Grace Parks Hulme died at the age of ninety on June 25, 2014, at her home in Arlington, Texas. She was survived by her four children, five grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. She was buried in Oaklawn Cemetery in Somerville, Texas.