Dolls I've Known & Loved: From Holly Hobbie to Mrs. BeasleyKatie Allison
I am the mother of three daughters (current ages 17, 5 and 2 years old), and I also have four nieces (ages 14, 10, 8 and 5). Thus, as you can imagine, we have had and still have a LOT of different dolls around our house. For a long time, the balance of boys to girls in our family was higher, so there were more toy weapons and small plastic trucks scattered around…
However, as my two boys got older, and as we added two new little sisters to the clan, the toy ratio has shifted. We are currently knee deep in baby dolls — plastic ones, cloth ones, teensy ones and big, huge ones. Some of them cry, one of them walks, and several of them are missing limbs.
(NOTE: I am not suggesting that ALL little boys eschew dolls in favor of sticks, rocks, toy weaponry, GI Joes, dead bugs, dirty bits of string,lacrosse sticks and Tonka trucks. I am simply noting that these were MY boys’ strong toy preferences. Your own boy-toy mileage may vary)
My oldest daughter, now a senior in high school (yeah, how did THAT happen? But I digress…) liked playing with her dolls pretty well, but she much preferred to play with her Breyer horses, or go to the barn and play with REAL horses.
Here is J on Christmas morning 2005, happily playing with the latest additions to her extensive Breyer horse collection, which she has now passed down to little sister C.
However, even with her love of horses, there was plenty of doll play by J as she was growing up. She especially loved the American Girl Kirsten doll she got for her 9th Christmas, and as late as her 10th birthday, she was still thrilled to receive a new doll buggy as her gift from me. She spent as much time strolling the dog in her doll buggy as she ever did one of her dolls, but she did love the thing.
If you look closely in the photo below, you can see that there’s no doll in J’s buggy, but there IS a very small dachshund named “Cookie” who was extremely patient about being dressed in doll clothes and strolled up and down the sidewalk the summer that J turned 10.
J’s little sister, five year old C, is definitely more into her stuffed animals than she is dolls. She just rarely plays with dolls unless her 5-year-old cousin NC is over and insists (NC…AKA: she who must be obeyed). However, two-year-old G is just the opposite. She LOOOOOOOVES dolls of all types. She likes to carry one around much of the time, and she switches her affection from doll to doll. She recently went through a phase where she was perpetually clutching a minuscule dimestore doll that we all referred to as “Tiny Dirty Baby” because it became so filthy from being dragged around everywhere, and she couldn’t be washed very well because of her cloth body with plastic head and limbs.
G likes to wrap her dolls up in blankets, and as you can see from this photo taken last summer, sometimes in tinfoil. Perhaps she thought the doll would be better roasted? Not sure. This particular doll — a hand me down from some cousin or another — was a big favorite for several months. Lately, though, she seems to have fallen out of favor with G.
G’s new favorite dolly walks and talks, and G treats her like her long lost sorority sister. They have gossipy conversations (pretty one sided, as you might imagine), and G likes to pretend that she’s holding her doll’s hand and “teaching” her to walk. (Thank you to Target for letting G be one of your doll reviewers! She loves hers.)
Here’s G earnestly explaining something or another to her new doll.
As we were watching our girls excitedly playing with G’s new walking doll the other day, my little sister Betsy and I were trying to remember which dolls from our own childhood were our favorites, and we came up with a very similar list. While we certainly had some generic dolls along the way that left no lasting impression, there were several specific dolls that both of us recall as being really important to us, and a lot of fun.
So with Betsy’s help, I’ve assembled a little slideshow of the most iconic dolls from our GenX girlhood, and I will be interested to hear whether any of you also had any of these particular dolls, or if there are others that Betsy and I did not have (we just missed the Cabbage Patch Doll craze, for example), but that you remember as super important to you when you were growing up. Are there any dolls you’ve saved to pass down to your own children?
Just click the arrows to scroll thru to the next doll in my photo gallery.
The Beloved Mrs. Beasley 1 of 7My sister Betsy and I had a Mrs. Beasley doll growing up and OH how we loved her. I think she actually belonged to Betsy, but, well, when you're only 22 months apart and share a bedroom, stuff becomes kind of communal, including dolls, We weren't alone among Gen X girls in our love for the chatty Mrs. Beasley, but her most famous fan was definitely Buffy (that's who is in the photo)from the TV show, "A Family Affair."
Dressy Bessy 2 of 7When I was thinking about this blog post, I texted my sister Betsy to ask her whether she remembered "that doll we used to have that taught you how to button and tie shoelaces." I knew we loved playing with her, but I couldn't for the life of me recall her name. Betsy responded by sending me this photo. Not only did she remember the doll's name (Dressy Bessy), she still HAS her, and here she is. We really, really loved playing with Dressy Bessy, and I am pretty sure that at one point we also had her male doppelgagnger, Daper Dan. Apparently Ree Drummond - The Pioneer Woman - is also a big Dressy Bessy fan.
Baby Alive 3 of 7This particular doll was all Betsy's, much to my chagrin. She loved her Baby Alive so much that she wasn't very nice about sharing. I recall retaliating at one point by pouring several of the special, highly valuable Baby Alive food packets into Betsy's fishtank. The fish didn't seem to mind, but my parents, not surprisingly, really, really did. I got in a lot of trouble, and I STILL never got to play with that damn doll. Anyway, baby Alive is still just as popular as she was back in the day, and in fact, my two year old LOVES her "Baby Wanna Walk" doll, which is sort of a cousin to the original Baby Alive.
Barbie Makeup Head 4 of 7Betsy was REALLY ANGRY when I drew a lightning bolt, Frankenstein-style zigzag scar across the Babrbie head's forehead. In my defense, I truly had no idea that it would never, ever come off no matter what we tried. Oops.
Madame Alexander Scarlett O’Hara Doll 5 of 7I was never a doll collector, but I was obsessed with the book, "Gone With the Wind" after first reading it in 5th grade. I then re-read it at least 25 times. It was my very, very favorite book, and I knew every detail in it. That's why when I was 11 or 12 years old, all I wanted for Christmas was this Madame Alexander Scarlett O'Hara doll, which I was thrilled to find under the tree Christmas morning, just as I'd hoped. I sure wish I knew what I did with her. I'd love to have been able to pass her down to my niece Eleanor, who loves Gone With the Wind just like I did.
Holly Hobbie 6 of 7I wonder why the whole frontier-girl leitmotif took hold in the 70s and early 80s? I know that "Little House on the Prairie" was a hot show then, but the Laura Ingalls books had been popular for 50 years or so at that point, and I tend to think that the show sprung from the 70s interest in that period of American history rather than the other way around. Who knows? In any event, between 1976-1981, every little girl I knew owned at least one sunbonnet, and many of us wore prairie-style Gunne Sax dresses for special occasions. Plus, a whole lot of us had this Holly Hobbie doll. I did, and I absolutely loved her. (Photo credit: Nostalgia Mama on Etsy. Go check out her selection of vintage toys and dolls. It's fantastic!)
Raggedy Ann 7 of 7What percentage of American girls over the past 100 years would you say have grown up with a Raggedy Ann doll of some description in their lives? I'm guessing more than 50% of us. Raggedy Ann may just be THE most ubiquitous American doll of all. And much loved. I had one, and so did Betsy. This particular Raggedy Ann is one that my mother acquired for my five year old daughter C on eBay. She's big and soft and even at my age, I feel happy holding her, just like I did when I was five years old. She's sitting in a little rocking chair that I got for Christmas when I was a one year old.
Do you know a deserving family, school, or charity this holiday season? We’re giving away one grand set of 20 toys from Target, including those mentioned in this post! To nominate, simply comment and tell us why you’ve selected them!
READ MORE FROM KATIE OVER AT MAMAPUNDIT (HER PERSONAL BLOG)