Born in 1894, Wilna Hervey would grow to be 6’4” and weigh 350 pounds, which led to her being cast as ‘Powerful Katrinka’ in the Toonerville Trolley silent movies. With well to do parents, she was very well educated and artistic from a young age, but shy and naïve. While drawing and painting were her main passions, it was as Mighty Katrinka that she was best known, even though that was a short part of her long life. And it was through the Toonerville movies, via her co-star Dan Mason, that she met the woman with whom she’d spend the rest of her life: Mason’s daughter, Nan.
Nan and Wilna had no intentions of being a couple at first; they both had men in their lives- Nan a fiancé- but they discovered they just fit together. Nan was nearly as tall as Wilna, and they shared an interest in art and found that life in the Woodstock area, in an artist’s colony, suited them very well. It was a place they could be themselves, create art, raise a huge garden, give parties, and have pets. They lived together 59 years in harmony, with a large circle of friends and fellow artists.
Fortunately, the people who ended up with the Big Girls’ (as they were known in the artist’s colony) houses after their deaths unearthed and saved piles and piles of correspondence and photographs. These all enrich this dual biography- there are illustrations on almost every page, both photos and artworks- and give a wonderfully clear picture of their lives.
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