#WomanCrushWednesday: Barbara Fiske Calhoun (B. Hall)

Back when many of America's males were off fighting in World War II, women filled the ranks of the American work force. This was the case for writers as well as welders. Many female writers and artists during this era adopted androgynous nom-de-plumes to hide their sex in order to make it in the industry. This is a celebration of the person behind the pen name "B. Hall."

Pat Parker.jpg

Barb Calhoun was born into a transplanted Southern family living in Arizona in 1919. Her family ancestry dates back to the American Revolution and the Confederacy, which was a source of great pride in the household. As a child she was not allowed to play with non-southern white children, something she rebelled against at every opportunity. She dropped the southern accent when she left for art school in Los Angeles vowing to marry a Jewish boy when she left. 

After art school she left for New York City in 1940 to pursue an art career but did not get her break until the US entered the Second World War. She showed her sketches to Harvey Comics in 1941 and was taken on to do a comic series called Black Cat. It was then she took on the name "B. Hall."

 

Her next project was of her own creation. Girl Commandos and Pat Parker: War Nurse became popular war comics during the time. The heroine, Pat Parker, gathered women from allied nationalities to kick Nazi and Axis butt. The outfit, and even much of the origins of this character often mirrored that of DC comics Wonder Woman which released at the same time. She continued working on Pat Parker until 1943 when she transitioned onto another comic which her boyfriend may have helped write: The Blonde "Bombshell" Bomber. This character became a regular in another popular comic: The Green Hornet.

After she married Irving Fiske (who was Jewish), they took the money from the wedding and bought a farm outside of Rochester, Vermont and created a "hippie commune." They called it "The Quarry Hill Creative Center" which is in operation to this day. She continued to hone her artwork and even opened a storefront in NYC's East Village. During the 60's she acquired a Masters in Fine Arts from Vermont University. She would divorce Irving in 1976 but would continue to live at Quarry Hill; she even remarried her mentor and professor from Vemont University in 1989.

Barb passed away in 2014 at the age of 95. She had lived the majority of her life on the commune and help inspire fellow artists who didn't quite fit societies mold. She painted and wrote right up to the end often saying that "art is prayer" when people questioned her about it. She lives on through her works and in the soul of any woman who doesn't want to conform to societal expectations.