La Verne Harding wasn’t the first female animator, but she certainly had a long career as one. Harding was hired in 1932 out of Chouinard Institute at the Walter Lantz studio. She started as an inker, was moved into the in-betweener pool, then became an animator in 1934. Her first credit was on “Wolf ! Wolf!” Despite Lantz’s financial ups and downs which caused his studio to close several times, Harding stuck with him until 1959, when she quit to work for Hanna-Barbera.
A number of people in animation supplemented their income by drawing comic strips or comic books. Harding was one of them. I stumbled across a Sunday newspaper comic she did called “Cynical Susie.” There’s a little information about it on the internet; you can read about it HERE. You should also read in the comment section as Mark Kausler has some additional information. The Catalogue of Copyright Entries lists the character with a Jan. 30, 1932 copyright date, listing Becky Sharp as a co-creator with Harding.
I’ve scrounged up a few comics. You can see the art style changed when someone else began drawing it (though Harding’s name is still attached to the comic). The format changed into a serial in later years. You can click on each comic to see it better.
June 30, 1937
July 7, 1937
January 6, 1938
November 2, 1939
November 9, 1939
November 16, 1939
November 22, 1939
It’s unclear when Harding left Hanna-Barbera, but she was back in theatrical cartoons at De Patie-Freleng when it began animating the Pink Panther in 1964. Former Lantz and Hanna-Barbera co-worker Alex Lovy may have been responsible for her jumping to Warner Bros. around 1967, where she stayed until the studio shut down in 1969. Harding then spent the next few years at Filmation to finish out her career.
Harding was certainly respected in the industry. She was given the The Winsor McCay Award for outstanding service by ASIFA on October 30, 1980. She died at her home in the Silver Lake district of Los Angeles on September 25, 1984, age 79.