Lily Renée Willheim was born on May 12, 1921, in Vienna, Austria, according to her Declaration of Intention naturalization application at Ancestry.com. Lily’s parents were Rudolph Willheim (1891–1958) and Else (Elsa) Goldstein (1895–1973).
Trina Robbins’ interview with Lily was published in The Comics Journal, November 29, 2006. Lily talked about her early life and explained how her parents came to America.
Lilys overseas travel was documented on a passenger list. She was 18 years old and aboard the steamship MV Georgic which departed Liverpool, England on January 30, 1940. She arrived in the port of New York on February 11, 1940. According the passenger list, Lily had been staying at Bloomsbury House. Her destination was 205 West 87 Street, New York, New York, where her father resided.
The 1940 United States Census recorded Lily and her father at 129 West 86th Street, Manhattan, New York City. He was a bank bookkeeper and she an artist. The whereabouts of her mother is not known.
On July 3, 1940 Lily began the naturalization process when she filed a Declaration of Intention.
Lily’s comics career started in 1942.
Lily and Ernest Siegfried Meyer obtained a Manhattan marriage license on November 18, 1944. They married on November 23, 1944. The marriage ended in divorce. Meyer was born on January 5, 1914, in Langenfield, Germany. He passed away February 28, 1994, in New York.
Lily became a naturalized citizen on September 6, 1945.
In 1946 she married Eric Andrew Peters in New Jersey. Earlier he had married Susanne Stierstadt on January 5, 1940 in Queens, New York. The 1940 census said he was self-employed cartoonist (who contributed to Colliers and The Saturday Evening Post). Peters was born on May 12, 1899 in Vienna, Austria (World War II draft card) and passed away in September 1979.
The 1950 census said Lily and Peters lived at 143-50 Hoover Avenue in Queens, New York. Both were freelance artists working in the magazine field. In 1952 their divorce was finalized in Dade County, Florida.
In 1953 Lily married Randolph Godfrey Phillips in Manhattan, New York City. The couple were issued license number 15407 on June 23, 1953; see pages 1267 for Phillips and 1720 for Lily. During World War II Phillips served in the Army. Lily and Phillips had a daughter and son. Phillips’ obituary was published in the New York Daily News, October 12, 1982 (below), and Columbia College Today, Spring 1983.
Randolph Godfrey Phillips, 71, a financial consultant who challenged some of the nation’s largest corporations on behalf of their stockholders, died Sunday at Lenox Hill Hospital after a long illness.Though not a lawyer, Phillips once argued in front of the United States Supreme Court and in 1977 unsuccessfully sued the Justice Department in an effort to nullify President Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon.A financial reporter for the New York Herald Tribune and New York World-Telegram in the 1930s, and later a speechwriter for New York Gov. Thomas E. Dewey, Phillips was graduated from Columbia University in 1931. He is survived by his wife and two children.
Lily passed away on August 24, 2022, in New York City.
The New York Times, September 14, 2022, Lily Renée Phillips, Pioneering Comic Book Artist, Dies at 101
Lily Renée, Escape Artist: From Holocaust Survivor to Comic Book Pioneer, Trina Robbins, Illustrated by Anne Timmons and Mo Oh, Graphic Universe, 2011
Fritz Ascher, Lily Renée (1921–2022): From Refugee to Renown
In My Not So Humble Opinion, Happy 100th birthday to Lily Renée
The Times of Israel, Overlooked Jewish female artist from comics’ golden age escaped real WWII peril
Alter Ego, #70, July 2007, “Lily Renée at Fiction House—and Beyond”
Newsweek, August 8, 2010 (print edition), “A Real-Life Comic Book Superhero”
Women in Comics Posts
Claire Szep (Updated April 17, 2023)
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