Lillian Bounds was born on the Nez Perce Reservation in Idaho in 1899. Her father was the federal marshal on the reservation and also the blacksmith. Lillian was the youngest of 10 children and the family struggled financially. Her father died when Lillian was 17.
Lillian graduated from high school and went to business college. When she was 24, she decided to join her older sister, Hazel, and Hazel’s family in Los Angeles. That was 1923. In Los Angeles, Lillian wanted to get a job. She found work as a secretary for a struggling animated cartoon company run by two brothers, Roy and Walt, and their friend Ub.
Roy, a decade older than Walt, had fought in World War I and come down with TB. To recover, he went to Los Angeles. Walt soon joined him from Chicago in 1923. They started Disney Brothers Studios, with Roy as the business manager, Walt as the idea man and his friend Ub Iwerks as the artist.
Lillian had an interesting habit – she didn’t cash her paycheck. Month after month, the checks sat uncashed. Finally, Walt joked, “I had to marry her” to keep the company afloat. Thus Lillian Bounds became Mrs. Walt Disney on July 13, 1925. She became an ink artist at the studio. In 1928, on a train ride from New York to California, Walt was doodling, trying to come up with a signature character for a cartoon series. All series featured animals and Walt came up with the rough sketch of little mouse. He told Lillian, “This is Mortimer Mouse.” Declaring Mortimer too depressing, she said, “No, it isn’t. It’s Mickie.”
Walt turned his sketch over to Ub and voila! Mickie Mouse was born!