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Hey, March is Women’s History Month — a great time to celebrate the many contributions to the funny pages by woman cartoonists.

Brenda Starr, 3/2/08

Dalia Messick called herself “Dale” to break into a male-dominated field and become the first woman syndicated cartoonist in 1940. With a lead character based on Rita Hayworth, the strip mixes workplace drama, romance, and adventure. Now written by Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich*, Brenda Starr covers ripped-from-the-headlines themes like drugs, blogging, out-of-control heiresses, and an evil guy named Josh who, I’m told, takes lots of vacations. The plots move along pretty quickly, and feature occasional cameo appearances by actual celebrities. Brenda Starr broke a lot of ground for comics by and about women, and is still worth a look.

* Fun fact: remember the urban legend about Kurt Vonnegut’s “wear sunscreen” commencement address? That “address” was actually a column, and later a book, by Schmich.

Mary Worth, 3/9/08

When a woman takes over an established strip like Mary Worth, it can take her a while to make it her own. Since the death of John Saunders in 2003, Karen Moy has been taking small steps away from the strip’s time-honored “Ms. Fixit” model, showing us episodes in which Mary’s advice doesn’t work out, competition for her status as Charterstone’s premier advice-giver, and tantalizing (well, within limits) glimpses of her personal life. Here comes a flashback — maybe somebody once told her to floss regularly, and it turned out to be good advice. But hey, in Mary Worth, that’s not only good dental hygiene, it’s a great leap forward. You go, Karen Moy!

For Better or For Worse, 8/13/07, and 3/9/08 (excerpt)

Of course, “women’s themes” are still well represented by these artists. Here we see the simple domestic rituals of meal preparation passed from one generation to the next — shadowed by the grim realities of eating disorders and obesity.

Hey, Josh is back, and Monday will be chock full of Joshy goodness like Comments of the Week, new comics, and a recap of the Tucson meetup. Meantime, thanks for a great week, and your generosity during the Pledge Drive — see you in the comments!

– Uncle Lumpy