Mary (nee Shepard), Knox (1909 - 2000)

Born: 1909 | Died: 2000 | Grave: Q 091 | Category: Arts | Tags: A A Milne, Children’s Books, Cinema, E H Shepard, Edmund Knox, Illustrator, Mary Poppins, P L Travers, Penelope Fitzgerald

Mary Shepard was the daughter of E H Shepard, the illustrator of the ‘Winnie the Pooh’ books and ‘The Wind in the Willows’. Mary was also an artist and, as the result of a chance encounter with Pamela Travers, the author of ‘Mary Poppins’, she became the illustrator of the ‘Mary Poppins’ books.

Mary Shepard ©Maria Fitzgerald


Personal history

Mary Shepard was born on Christmas Day in 1909. She came from an artistic family. Her mother was a painter and her father was the artist E. H. Shepard, who drew the original illustrations for the children’s books Winnie the Pooh and The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame.

Visiting A A Milne and meeting Christopher Robin

As a child, Mary often visited the house of A.A. Milne in Ashdown Forest in Sussex, where she would play with the real Christopher Robin while her father made sketches for his illustrations of Winnie the Pooh. (Pooh was modelled on ‘Growler’, her brother Edward’s bear). Mary is reported to have said that Christopher Robin seemed never to have played with anyone older than himself!

As Mary grew older, she also developed talent for drawing and painting, and trained as an artist at the Slade School of Art in London.

 Mary Poppins

It was quite by chance that Mary got her break as an illustrator. Pamela Travers (who preferred to be known as P. L. Travers) was an unknown Australian author. Her children’s book, Mary Poppins, had been accepted by the publisher Peter Davies. Travers had hoped that Mary’s father would illustrate it, but he was too busy. Whilst she was visiting him she saw a Christmas card designed by Mary, then aged twenty-three, on the mantelpiece. As a result of seeing the card she chose Mary to illustrate the book, despite advice from her publisher Peter Davies that Mary had insufficient experience. (Peter Davies, as Peter Llewelyn Davies, is also buried in the Additional Burial Ground. With his brothers he was the inspiration for another famous children’s book – Peter Pan.)

The first Mary Poppins book was published in 1934. Seven more followed.

The books were made into a musical film in 1964, starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. Julie Andrews’ costumes were based on Mary Shepard’s drawings.

Creating the image of Mary Poppins

If you are interested in finding out more about how Mary Shepard created the image of Mary Poppins have a look at the Mary Shepard notes in the Education section


Marriage to E V Knox

In 1937, three years after her first illustrations for Mary Poppins, Mary Shepard married Edmund Knox, who was the editor of Punch magazine at that time. Her husband was the inspiration for Mary’s illustrations of George Banks, the father of the children in Mary Poppins.

Mary’s grave

Grave Q 91 in the ABG

Mary’s husband, known as Evo, was 28 years older than she was and she admired him greatly.   He died in 1971. Mary had no children of her own, but Evo had two from his first marriage. His daughter Penelope, who later became the novelist Penelope Fitzgerald, was only seven years younger than her step-mother and, as they grew older, they became very close – more like sisters than mother and daughter. They both died in 2000.

Mary was modest about her talent. She was so modest that she said she did not wish to be buried with her husband because she said her name would add clutter to his stone. Penelope’s children knew how close Mary and Penelope were and they arranged for twin tombstones to be placed next to Evo’s headstone. They are side by side above the cremated remains of Penelope and Mary, one showing a hand with a pen, the other a hand with a paintbrush.


Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

The ‘Mary Poppins’ series by P. L. Travers – the first published in 1934 and the last one in 1988; all have been reprinted numerous times in various editions.

Mary Shepard’s obituary in The New York Times –




This page was last updated on May 19th, 2012.


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