Lietta’s Handwritten Journal (1960)
Helen Lietta Dowd (1908-1982) was an artist, designer, and teacher who spent most of her life in Pasadena, California. Known professionally as “Lietta,” Miss Dowd exhibited her work in several galleries in New York and California and was commissioned to decorate nurseries for “children of notable families” (Fletcher, 1943, 258) in the 1930s and 1940s. Additionally, Miss Dowd designed ceramics and wallpaper, created patterns for craft magazines, and illustrated numerous books and magazine stories for children. During her later years, she also lectured on illustrating and taught art to both adults and children.
Miss Dowd became an official contributor to the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection in 1972 when Dr. Lena Y. de Grummond contacted her about donating some of her work to the Archive. From 1972 to 1976, Miss Dowd sent donations of numerous books, illustrations, dolls, etc. for the Lietta Papers. One of the most remarkable items that she sent to the Collection is a handwritten journal she created during her journey to England and other parts of Europe in 1960. Illustrated with adorable pencil sketches that depict events that occurred throughout her trip, the journal details the story of Miss Dowd’s visit to Buckingham Palace to deliver framed artwork for Prince Andrew’s nursery.
As she explained to Dr. de Grummond in a letter in 1974, Miss Dowd had discovered some years ago that Princess Elizabeth greatly admired a Lietta painting that had hung in her nursery when she was a child. Thrilled with this knowledge, Miss Dowd attempted to send the Princess a similar painting for Prince Charles in 1949. Unfortunately, the law at the time prevented her from accepting such a gift. Years later, a mutual acquaintance of both Miss Dowd and (now) Queen Elizabeth made it possible to revisit the idea of sending an original Lietta painting to Buckingham Palace. This time, the gift for Prince Andrew’s nursery was gladly accepted by Her Royal Majesty, and Miss Dowd was able to present the painting to the appropriate carrier during her visit to England in 1960. The aforementioned journal includes a humorous description of Miss Dowd’s visit to the Palace, her delivery of the painting, and her encounter with proper English customs.
The handwritten journal, the 1974 letter to Dr. de Grummond, and photocopied correspondence from Queen Elizabeth’s Ladies-in-Waiting are housed together--along with a photocopy of the actual painting given to Prince Andrew. These items can be found in the Helen Dowd (Lietta) Papersin the de Grummond Collection at McCain Library & Archives. For questions about this item, contact Ellen Ruffin at Ellen.Ruffin@usm.edu or 601.266.6543. To see more Items of the Month, click here.
Fletcher, Russell Holmes. 1943. Who’s Who in California: A Biographical Reference Work of Notable Men and Women of California, 1942-1943. Los Angeles: Who’s Who Publications Co.
Handwritten Journal, Helen Dowd (Lietta) Papers, de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection, McCain Library and Archives, The University of Southern Mississippi, box 2, folder 4.
[Unknown author]. The Christian Scientist Monitor, July 30, 1951.
Text by Danielle Bishop Stoulig, Assistant Curator of the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection.