Saturday, December 19, 2009

Dolls and their purpose

Since I've been making and sewing on yarn hair on Raggedy Ann dolls this week, it got me to thinking about their necessity in the lives of children. Every little girl wants a doll for Christmas. Even my aunt Ethel who is now almost 90 tells us that her poor widowed mom tried to get some kind of doll for each of her 3 girls for the holiday. I remember getting dolls and also carriages to wheel them around in when I was just 3 years old (see my photo on left). Then there were the special dolls that would take a bottle of water and wet their diaper-why that was so special, I'll never know after struggling with potty training for my three sons years later. There were also dolls that cried when you turned them over and said MAMA.

Do you suppose the purpose of these dolls was to prepare us for motherhood? I also remember playing house complete with a cupboard and table and chairs to set my dishes and tea set on. I even recall having an ironing board and a play iron plus a high chair for my dolly. In acting out the lives of mothers and wives in our playing we are in a way preparing for future roles we hoped to have. Just like fairy tales and buying into the myth of happily ever after, our play set the stage for our later lives.

Girls of today have Barbie dolls with glamorous clothes and even a boy friend doll named Ken with a convertible. Times have changed. Also Barbie looks nothing like my baby dolls. She has a waist and boobs and is skinnier than humanly possible. What has happened to our society? I never owned a Barbie doll but I do remember one Christmas when I was about 10 getting a new doll for Christmas and my cousin recieved a cute teddy bear. (See us in photo on right.) We decided to have a wedding with our new playthings. Those were the good old days when life was simpler.

We both grew up, got married and lived happily ever after until our divorce about the same time. Then we got to play single parent...


  1. I can't understand the fascination with Barbie, either. I could never bond with her.

    I loved my plump dolls that looked like babies, not like sophisticated grown ups.

  2. I had baby dolls. My daughter had a Rub-a-Dub Dolly and my son had a Baby Beans. They did very little parenting with their dolls, but their play did involve disciplining the naughty Baby Beans.
    Jill never got into Barbies, and has not bought them for her daughter, but Irene is getting and loving Princess dolls with beautiful dresses.
    Children's play is just that - play. No happy-ever-after guaranteed.

  3. I took my mothering of my dolls very seriously: sewed outfits for them, changed their outfits regularly, took them to school with me. I wonder if little girls give up playing with dolls at a much younger age than we did? I wouldn't be surprised, but I hope not.

  4. I too loved my dolls. I think the care of the "babies" was just from watching my very busy mom (there were five of us) and just imitating her actions. I do feel that it did spark the maternal instinct. I never had a Barbie but oh how I envied my cousin's many Barbies, a Barbie Mansion, a convertible, Ken, etc.,etc.! My favorite doll of all though was a Thumbalin, which could be wound up and played a melody and the baby would gently move. I looked for years and years to find one for Ashton and finally found a similar doll a few years ago. I wanted Ashton to have a "real" baby doll. She did have Barbies but loved her baby dolls so much more.

  5. I loved dolls, Lin. Still do. I don't think they were tools for training, really. I think that's other people over-thinking things. But I do think my dolls taught me the pleasure of loving back. They let me hug them. That was something.

  6. How terrible! I don't remember if I had a doll. I don't remember having one. I had a teddy bear at one time. We were pretty poor back then so toys were hard to come by. It's pretty remarkable when I see what my children and grandchildren have now.

    My daughter liked Barbies for a while and I made clothes for her, too. I don't know if it had any effect on her.

  7. Even little boys sometimes like dolls to dress up..maybe it is some genetic thing....I don't know that Barbie has been a good thing for little girls over the years...

  8. No barbies for me, and I do think they have done more harm than good. Your post made me think about how life is a rollercoaster...sometimes you really have to hold on!!