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A doll was the most precious possession for a little girl during most of American history. Longed for at Christmas, carefully cared for and played with, a close companion for the adventures of childhood, girls often created families of them. Dolls tell much about childhood for girls.

If you want to know what was thought important for girls across time, look at her dolls. Dolls send messages, ‘be an adult’, ‘nurture a baby’, ‘be beautiful’. Without being aware of it, many girls were importantly formed by their dolls.

We have over 200 dolls in our collection. They range from the 1840s to the 1980s, from humble dolls of corn husks, cloth or wood, to elaborate ones of china and bisque, composition, plastic, and vinyl. From large impressive dolls to tiny frozen figures tucked into pockets; from dolls amazingly costly to dolls amazingly treasured, the beauty and care for these ‘mere’ toys tell us a great deal about our past as females.

Photo for Dolls
“A beautiful night, but war is coming.” An early china ‘flat top’ doll probably in original garments. 15” glazed china head, cloth body circa 1860-1865.
Photo for Dolls
“Have suitcase,will travel.” One of our most completely outfitted dolls. 15” bisque head, composition body circa 1890-1910.
Photo for Dolls
“Have bib, will eat.” A bent legged baby jointed at shoulders and hips. 14” bisque swivel head, composition body circa 1910-1930.
Photo for Dolls
“I could have danced all night.” Ballerina doll by Madame Alexander in original outfit. 17.5” hard plastic and vinyl circa 1980-1989.

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