Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Story Time Stitches: Mary LaFetra Russell


Mary LaFetra Russell is very popular with those of us who adore children's book illustrations and in the 19-teens to the late 1930s she illustrated a variety of children's books.  Her art had a gentle charm and tenderness.  Here's just a few of her book covers:

I can't tell you a single thing about Mary though.  I've never been able to find out her birth or death dates, where she lived or even if LaFetra was her maiden name or her mother's.  This is highly unusual but the only newspaper articles I was able to find on her refer to the books she illustrated. 

She also illustrated postcards in the early 19-teens which may signify when she got her professional start in illustration.

She was obviously popular and her work was adopted into sewing as well.

Above is what I think was a kit for an embroidered pillow.  You can barely see the dots at the bottom of the photo which surround the piece to form a square.  This was gifted to me by my dear friend Pam B.

Mary's artwork was used in other embroidery as well.  Here are a few examples from a redwork quilt:

Some of you may recognize her work.  In the last decade or so, Amy Barickman published a cloth panel-book of Mary's Mother Goose Book published in 1914:

Her designs are still sold for embroidery.  Here are a few I made. I think it's high time I sew these into a quilt:

It's so unfortunate that we don't know more about this artist. I am not the only who adores her work.  There are pages of her illustrations on Google and Pinterest and I hope you take the time to enjoy her work!

Have a safe and happy day!

Story Time Stitches © 2021, Michele McLaughlin


  1. I love your embroideries. You can tell that she was an animal lover.

  2. I went hunting just for fun but I didn't find here either. I found a Mary married to a Michael Lefetra in the 1910 Census from Hoboken New Jersey. She is 40 and he is 45, no children. I found another Mary Lefetra with father Samuel Lefetra and mother Mary A. But neither lead took me to anything. Oh well, It was fun to look. Thanks for bringing this sweet illustrator to my attention.