Friday, September 6, 2013

My Brown Doll

The Internet is a very resourceful tool that has allowed me to connect with wonderful people throughout the past several years.  On the web, I have learned many new things from both men and women who reside in different cities, states, countries and continents.  I hope the exchange has been mutual and that the people whose lives I have entered have benefited from knowing me, if only for a day. 

My most recent Internet connection through email correspondence has been with Sally McLean of Gem Art Australia, where unique jewellery pieces from natural gemstones, pearls, vintage beads and other interesting components are created.  Sally did not write me to discuss her jewelry, however.

On August 13, 2013, along with the following email inquiry I received photo attachments:

Subject:  My Brown Doll

I have a doll that I was given for my 5th birthday in December 1956. I remember the box and the excitement. As I am a December baby it’s the usual “Happy Birthday/Merry Christmas” thing.

She is stamped “Pedigree England” and is about 50cm (about 20 inches tall). She has her original shoes and has a sound device in her back – I think she used to say “Ma Ma”. She has pinky brown skin, red lips and two very white front teeth. Amber eyes that move side to side and her eyelids close. She has beautiful eyelashes. 

She has long acrylic hair that can be brushed but I think that wig may have been added later at the ‘doll’s hospital’ in Adelaide (Australia) as I think she had fixed mohair plaits when I got her. 

Do you know anything about this doll – is it of interest as being unusual or rare? I’d like to find her a good home. I have been carrying her around in a bag for over 50 years – it would be nice to see her loved and appreciated again. I have no daughters and no grandchildren. Not looking for money but would require packaging and postage paid.
I saw one on UK eBay and they called it a PEDIGREE Delite 20" Mulatto/Dusky Toddler and it sold for $GBP218. 


It was 4 a.m. and Sally's email was one of the first I read that morning prior to taking my first sip of coffee and beginning my workday.  I incorrectly assumed she only sought her doll's ID and value.  In my initial reply, I referred her to two Pedigree doll aficionados*.  In a subsequent email, Sally corrected my confused thinking and iterated that she wanted to find a new adoptive home for her doll and offered her to me for the cost of her travel (postage).  Because of my huge affection for dolls made during the 1950s, I was thrilled to accept Sally's doll, but more honored after learning that she had been Sally's only doll in her lifetime!  What-an-honor she was bestowing on me.

Sally provided the following additional information with one request after I agreed to adopt her brown doll:

The shoes are original and the dress (made of gingham) was made by my mother who was a professional dressmaker and died this year (aged 92). I don’t know if you name your dolls but if you could call this one “Betty” (my mother’s name) that would make me happy... I am just starting to appreciate ‘history’ and I am in awe of people like yourself who admire and preserve it.

Before the travel arrangements and expenses were determined and paid, like a true mother, Sally explained to Betty what was in store for her.  She tidied her clothing and provided me with additional history:

I have told Betty she is going on holidays and that at last she will have some friends. She was my only doll. My sister (4 years older) had 2 dolls – but they were smaller, and white, and I always felt my doll was so superior. Oddly enough I don’t recall her having a name other than “Dolly”... 

I washed and ironed her dress and knickers today. They came up remarkably well. I had to put new elastic in her knickers – the old stuff had perished. Can’t have a girl going abroad with her panties falling down! I cleaned her shoes, combed her hair and found a red hair ribbon for her hair.

Before her departure, Betty was also given new laces for her shoes.

(A mother's love never ends and a new mother's love is a joyful experience.)

I wondered how Sally found me and without even asking, in another email, she explained:

I recently found ‘Dolly’ zipped up in a bag deep in a dark closet and felt very sad for her. I didn’t want her sitting on the couch, nor did I want to give her to a child, nor did I want to auction her off. I did a bit of Googling in an attempt to find out some details about her and found your name, your blog and your book and just thought “This lady loves black dolls” and I was so pleased. 

(I am so glad I was found!)

As indicated in the above snapshot of Betty's tracking, she departed Australia for the States on 08/21/2013 and arrived in the US on 08/24/2013.  She had an extended delay in the Customs Department at LAX and was finally released and delivered to my post office box on 09/03/2013.  I picked her up yesterday and am thoroughly pleased.

As I indicated to Sally, she is near perfect and in such pristine condition.  It is evident that she was a loving mother.  I love Betty's flirty eyes -- eyes that follow the movement of her head when it is moved to either side. This enhances her appeal and character.  I will continue to love this delightful little girl, hopefully for 50 more years.

Betty has settled in nicely and made several friends.
 *At my suggestion, prior to Betty's departure, Sally contacted Susan Brewer of British Doll Showcase, to seek Betty's true ID.  Ms. Brewer, who has written several doll reference books, replied:

Hi Sally,

What a beautiful doll! I don't think she has any special name as such, she is a dusky brown Saucy Walker, made in the early to mid 1950s. Yes, she would originally have had plaits.
Best wishes,

Thanks again, again, and again Sally! 


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  1. Very touching story of a well-loved doll. Wonderful that she has found a loving home with you.

    1. It is indeed touching that a complete stranger has gifted me with such a rare beauty!


  2. It's too early in the morning for tears. What a sweet, touching story. I'm so happy she was able to find Betty such a wonderful home, but of more dolly friends and lots of love. Congratulations.

    1. Betty has made lots of new dolly friends and as Sally mentioned, this is the first time she has "seen" people who look like her.


    2. I had a doll like this for probably, my 5th birthday. I loved her.She was beautiful- identical to Betty, except , she had a fringe and plaits. I think she was slightly smaller. Possibly 12 inches tall.These dolls are so adorable, with their pretty faces and little teeth She also wore a red and white dress and had socks and shoes on.I named her Sunny Sue. I don't know what became of her. I expect my mum chucked her out. I have searched for one for a long time, but I believe the black walkers are quite rare. I managed to get a doll on ebay a couple of years back for £15 ! She is almost the same except her hair is cropped.I could buy her a wig, but I think that would devalue her. Vanessa

    3. Hello Vanessa,

      I enjoyed reading about your childhood doll that was similar, but smaller, than Betty. I wonder if she was more like the 10-inch Pedigree doll seen here.

      It's wonderful that you found a replacement. For appearance sake, you could rewig your recently found doll, if that will allow you to enjoy her more. If you are concerned about devaluing the doll, you could place a place a stocking cap (or actual wig cap) over the doll's original wig and place a wig on top of the stocking cap without gluing it into place.

      Thanks again for writing and sharing your story.


  3. I think Sally is beautiful! I would have loved a doll like that during the 50's. It was rare back then to find one especially one so pretty. What a blessing!

    1. I am still feeling blessed and highly favored, TG. I will probably experience these feelings each time I look at Betty smiling face.


  4. Very touching. Congratulations on getting such a jewel.

  5. I am posting this on behalf of my doll-friend Betty, who gave me a composition doll to use for parts that I could not disassemble for that purpose because the doll was too perfect. I, instead incorporated the doll into my collection and named it after Betty. That was the second doll I named in her honor. Now I have three Betties. After reading about my third Betty, the real Betty wrote:

    Dear Debbie;

    Every once in a while, a story comes along that begs to be told. Sally McLean is an amazing person who found another amazing person to share her favorite childhood doll with. Even though she researched and knew the value, she was determined to place her doll in your loving care. Who does that in today's world?

    It doesn't surprise me that God chose you to be the recipient of this miracle. You and Sally share the same character traits found in great people. Congratulations Debbie, you greatly deserve the honor of treasuring Sally's doll. Your blog is a tremendous gift of sharing with the people who love dolls.

    I know you said you would not write another book but this story has all the elements I look for when buying storybooks about dolls. I'm also elated that the doll has been named Betty. Guess who is smiling with two thumbs up? Is it possible that Sally from Australia is related to the famous doll artist Jan McLean of Australia?

    Your sister in Christ Jesus,

    Betty Jane

  6. Dear Debbie,

    What a precious gift this lovely lady bestowed upon you. Wow - would I ever love to get my hands on one of these rare dolls. I live in Canada and I'm a doll collector and amateur historian and I just love the photos of your doll collection!!! I am a dollaholic to the bone and just can't get enough! I just found your blog by chance and signed up for any updates. Canada is a lonely place for doll collectors - there are basically almost no clubs to join or blogs such as this one so I'm so grateful to have found your blog to follow.
    Thank you ever so much and God Bless you!
    Donna Rose

    1. Hi Donna Rose!

      I am glad you stumbled upon my blog. I hope you'll enjoy future installments.

      Betty is most definitely a precious doll gift that I will cherish forever!

      There must be some fellow collectors in your area. Doll collecting is enjoyable but can be a lonely hobby when there is no one else to share your enthusiasm.

      Again, I am glad you found me!


  7. Wow Debbie G . That was a beautiful gift an a great story. What a lucky doll.

    1. Thank you for reading Betty's story, Lady_Rose and for commenting. She and I are extremely lucky!



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