At first, I didn’t want to attend an all-women’s college.
I wanted to be with men. I always thought women weren’t as competitive as men. I felt like going to school with men would be more like the real world. But eventually Moore began to work out for me. I found that the women were just as competitive as the men would be.
It was the Depression, and unless you could get a scholarship, you really couldn’t afford to go to art school. I had a full scholarship from the Philadelphia Board of Education. Some of the officials already knew my work.
Once I arrived, I fell in love with the small size of the College and the quality of the faculty at Moore. I remember Henry Snell, a painting instructor, who came to class in a surgical white jacket and used a long stick to point out a student’s work without touching it.
He stood behind me one day, pointed at my work and said, “Well, my dear, I think you’re going to be a portrait artist.” It stunned me. I had no idea…I loved doing portraits but I wanted to do other things too, so the Illustration [major] worked out.
In my last year at Moore, I got a job at night in a small printer’s shop where they were introducing offset printing.
I saw an ad in the newspaper saying they needed someone who could come and do drawings and paste-ups. So I did that job after school.
Shortly after that, an opportunity came up with the Sunday Evening Post that changed my life.
There was one day a week at The Curtis Publishing Company where the Post opened their doors and the art editor would invite you to come in and show him ideas for covers, so I began doing that, and they bought several of my ideas. And the editor finally said, “Now look Miriam, we bought a number of your cover [ideas], would you like to do a finished cover yourself?” I finally finished it, and they bought it.
Once the cover appeared in the Post, I got a call from an agent who said, “Come to New York, we can get you all the work you want.” So I left for New York, and that’s where I arrived in 1944.
I began doing illustrations for magazines and journals, including a major client, Woman’s Day magazine. I called them “my meal ticket,” my bread and butter account. They paid the rent.
For three weeks in October 1953, I was one of a half-dozen members of the Society of Illustrators (and the only woman) who traveled to Korea to sketch portraits of military personnel stationed in the war zone.
It was like art school where you had endless models. One after the other they lined up, with their hair slicked back and their clothes pressed. The original drawings were sent to their family and I would get letters back, thanking me.
I have taught art, written about art history for the Smithsonian and Harvard magazines, exhibited and won prizes in national and international art shows and illustrated and written for The New York Times, Fortune and other national publications. More than a dozen of my portraits are included in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.
Perhaps one of the prizes I’m most proud of is the one I established myself at Moore in 1995 – The Miriam Troop ’38 Portrait Prize.