Grambs Aronson (born Blanche Mary Grambs) died on Tuesday, March 2, one day after her 94th birthday. She had been in failing health, but died peacefully in her New York city home, surrounded by loving family members and dear friends.

Born March 1, 1916, Grambs (as she was known) and her late husband, Allan James (Jim) Aronson, journalist, writer, and Thomas A. Hunter professor of journalism at Hunter College in New York city, were longtime summer residents of Menemsha.

Grambs was an artist and illustrator. She illustrated the first edition of the Martha’s Vineyard Cookbook, collaborating with Louise Tate King and Jean Wexler of the Vineyard on that endeavor. She also illustrated The Beach Plum Inn Cookbook, written by Theresa Morse and Fred Feiner, as well as a number of other cookbooks, garden and nature books and children’s books, some of which she worked on in her little studio behind their Menemsha cottage, the Blue Dolfin.

Mrs. Wexler called Grambs “one of my oldest and most precious friends.” She said this week, “For over 40 years my husband and I spent many hours with Grambs and her beloved husband, Jim, both on Martha’s Vineyard and in New York city. We never spent afternoons on Vineyard beaches or took strolls in lower Manhattan (where they had a house) because of her crippled spine, which unfortunately became worse as she aged. But we talked and laughed and reminisced and did many of the pleasant things that good friends do. She was a beautiful, sensitive, talented, unique lady.”

Grambs grew up in Tientsin, (now known as Tianjiang) China, the daughter of an American businessman, and granddaughter, on her mother’s (Bostick) side, of Baptist missionaries. She came to New York city on a scholarship to the New York Art Students League in 1934. In 1936, Grambs became part of the goverment’s Works Progress Administration print-making project. She married, and some years later divorced fellow artist, Hugh Miller. Her later work as a fashion artist and then as an illustrator she did under the name Grambs Miller.

Following the war, she had a long career as a commercial (fashion) artist, drawing shoes, handbags, scarves, jewelry, cosmetics and lingerie for some of the top fashion magazines in New York. Many of her original fashion drawings are now housed at the library of the Fashion Institute of New York. (She was a competitor for some of these jobs with Andy Warhol, among other artists.) She transitioned to book-illustrating in the late 1950s and early 1960s, working into the 1980s.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New York Public Library, the Newark Museum of Art, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art all hold significant archives of her work. In the last months of her life, Oct. 28 to Nov. 28, 2009, an exhibition of her work from the Depression era, and some later, along with the work of a number of distinguished fellow artists of the period, was mounted at the Susan Teller Gallery in lower Manhattan, a crowning achievement of her career. A number of her works have been collected by Micky Wolfson, of the Wolfsonian Museum in South Beach (Miami), Florida. A lengthy article, The Great Depression and the Prints of Blanche Grambs, written by James Wechsler, appeared in the December, 1996 edition of the periodical, Print Quarterly.

As Grambs Miller, artist had New York Show in 2009. — unspecified

Grambs was the driving force behind the creation of the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism at Hunter College, Department of Film and Media Studies, ( which annually since 1990 has bestowed awards to outstanding investigative social justice print journalists nationwide. Recently Grambs was honored by having the Cartooning with a Conscience award named after her.

She leaves many loving friends and relatives, including niece Marya Grambs and her partner, Jan Montgomery, of Honolulu, Hawaii; niece Sarah Grambs and her husband, Ken Horton, of Wayne, Pa.; nephew Peter Grambs and his wife, Lia Grambs, of Fairfield, Conn.; and five grandnieces and grand-nephews; stepdaughters Mary (Aronson) McCormick and her husband, Graydon McCormick, of North Andover; Anita Margaret (Maggi) Saunders of Mill Valley, Calif.; and step-grandchildren Katherine (Kate) McCormick of Quincy, and Seth McCormick, his wife, Cheryl, and daughter, Freya, of Cullowhee, N.C.; niece Rhoda (Aronson) Naylor and husband Michael Naylor of Westport, Conn., and a grandniece and grandnephew.

Her ashes will be interred at the Abel’s Hill Cemetary in Chilmark, beside those of her late husband, Jim Aronson. Memorial events are being planned.