|Circa 1940s-1950s Mama Dolls|
Whether or not they are mothers, most females are natural-born nurturers. Beginning in infancy, being cared for and witnessing a mother or guardian care for younger children aids in the development of a child's instinctive desire to nurture. In young children, this instinct is also developed through role and doll play. Today's baby dolls and their predecessors, specifically mama dolls, have been used by children to mimic the mothering role.
The vintage picture of Miss Edna Earl Gaston and Friend (the friend being the mama-type doll which was either a studio prop or the young Miss Gaston's personal doll) inspired this post about mama dolls.
Mama dolls became quite popular in America during the 1920s. The initial mama dolls were made of composition with cloth bodies that contained a voice box which made the sound "ma-ma" when the doll's body was tilted forward or backward. Their voice boxes, also known as criers, are located either in the front or back of their torsos. When found today, most mama dolls' voice boxes are mute.
Mama dolls were made in a variety of sizes as babies and toddlers well into the early 1950s. Composition, hard plastic, and stuffed latex/Magic Skin were paired with cloth, or a combination of all these materials, to produce the final versions of mama dolls.
As a child, I remember playing with baby dolls. While these were not the original mama dolls, they served to develop my nurturing skills through doll play. I recall making sock dresses for American Character's Tiny Tears (and incurring a skin-incorporated stitch injury to my thigh during one such doll clothes-sewing event). Pretending to rock Ideal's Thumbelina to sleep after turning the wooden knob in her back, which made her rock on her own, was done to mimic my father's cradling of me in his arms and rocking me from side to side as he sang, "go to sleep little baby... go to sleep little baaaaa-aaaa-by...."
(Okay, admittedly, men have the ability to nurture, too.)
After my adult interest in modern dolls was nearly exhausted, I began adding vintage black dolls to my collection in the late 1990s/early 2000s. As a result, I own a few unique examples of black mama dolls that I imagine helped several little girls and big girls before me develop and continue their innate nurturing skills.
On this Mother's Day weekend, I decided to share a few images and brief descriptions of early mama dolls from my personal collection.
|26-inch composition girl and 23-inch (rare) composition boy, circa 1940s and 1930s. Based on the boy's metal eyes, he is the older of the two. Both have voice boxes which can be felt in the front (the girl) and the back (the boy) of their cloth torsos. These dolls are attributed to W. B. Abbott's line of Sun Tan dolls. A close-up of this pair follows:|
|Close-up of composition mama dolls, described above|
|Transitional mama dolls, close-up; the doll on the right is missing something. Can you tell what she's missing?|
Happy Mother's Day to mothers, grandmothers, and doll lovers whose dolls serve as inanimate children.
Oh Such Eyes
Transitional Doll Clean-up (and answer to question posed above)
A white Magic Skin doll's restoration
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