The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 101, July 1997 - April, 1998

An Image-maker from Texas: Gordon Conway and
a New Look for a New Woman
RAYE VIRGINIA ALLEN*
ANEWSPAPER HEADLINE DURING THE JAZZ AGE IN PARIS ANNOUNCED
that a "Texas Girl Wins Fame as Artist in Foreign Nations." The subti-
tle of the March 21, 1924, International News Service feature story added
that "Paris, London and Milan Already Have Honored Miss Conway for
Her Illustrations." Indeed, Texas-born Gordon Conway distinguished
herself between the world wars on two continents as a commercial graph-
ic artist and costume and set designer who celebrated the New Woman
on page, stage, and screen. Heralding a burgeoning consumer culture,
Gordon Conway was herself the quintessential Jazz Age flapper of the
192os and glamorous urban sophisticate of the 193os. As an image-
maker she helped to shape the way early-twentieth-century women
looked and aspired to look, all the while reflecting the world of the beau
monde in an atmosphere of sweeping change on both sides of the
Atlantic.'
Born in Cleburne, Texas, on December 18, 1894, Gordon Conway
moved to Dallas with her family around 1900. Her father, John Catlett
Conway (1854-1906), was an astute businessman with self-made wealth
as founder of a chain of North Texas lumberyards. He was a well-educat-
ed Virginia native who became mayor of Cleburne and later a promi-
nent Dallas civic leader. A lifelong companion who outlived her daugh-
ter, Gordon's mother was Tommie Johnson Conway (1870-1960), a spir-
ited and fashionable social leader, arbiter of taste, and widely traveled
woman with business acumen-an ability passed on to the couple's only
* Raye Virginia Allen is a cultural historian from Temple, Texas, and Washington, D.C. In
September 1997, the University of Texas Press will publish her book, Godon Conway- Fashioning a
New Woman, as part of the American Studies Series edited by William H. Goetzmann. She thanks
Dr. Goetzmann for his inspiration and intellectual guidance during this research project.
'"Texas Girl Wins Fame As Artist in Foreign Nations," by Alice Langelher, columnist for
Hearst newspapers/International News Service, Paris, Mar. 21, 1924, Gordon Conway press
books, Gordon Conway Collection (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, Theatre Arts
Collection, University of Texas at Austin; cited hereafter as GCC) For general background see
Frederick Lewis Allen, Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 192os (1931; reprint, New York:
Perennial, 1964); Robert Graves and Alan Hodge, The Long Week-End A Sonal Hstlory of Great
Britazn 1918-1939 (London: Faber and Faber, 1941)

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 101, July 1997 - April, 1998. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117155/. Accessed September 16, 2014.