Mabel was the sixth child of eleven, born to butcher Augustus Attwell in Mile End, London. At sixteen she attended Heatherley’s and St Martin’s School of Art but left to develop her own interests in imaginary subjects, being bored with still life. In 1908 she married illustrator Harold Earnshaw and had three children, Brian, Peter and Peggy. Peggy was the inspiration for the typical ‘Attwell’ toddlers.
Between 1905 and 1913 she had illustrated ten books for W & R Chambers. During the First World War thousands of her postcards were sent to the troops to cheer them up. Her trademark style was of sentimentalised rotund cuddly infants featured across a wide range of markets; cards, calendars, nursery equipment and pictures, chinaware and dolls. The china was used in the Royal Nursery by Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret and later by Prince Charles.
In 1921 J.M. Barrie personally asked her to illustrate the gift-book edition of Peter Pan. In 1933 she started a comic strip in the London Opinion called ‘wot a life’. Her husband died in 1937 and in 1944 she moved to Polruan. Two years later she moved to St. Fimbarrus Road in Fowey.
Mabel had a deep attachment to Fowey and surrounds, her father being a descendent of Hugh Attwell, parson of St. Ewe, near Mevagissey in 1558 and of John Attwell, who was rector of Fowey Parish Church in 1640. She died at home in Fowey on 5th November 1964.
Research Angie Crown
John Henty, The Collectible World of Mabel Lucie Attwell, (Richard Dennis, 1999).