Friday, February 27, 2015

Marian Anderson and WSJHS's Dolls for Democracy and Diversity

The Marian Anderson doll is made of a polymer clay for the head and lower arms/hands.  The upper arms, body, and legs are cloth with wire armature. 

In January, I found this unsigned-by-the-artist, Marian Anderson doll on eBay.  The seller was asked to share information, the name, if known of the doll’s prior owner and replied, “the late Frances Reedy from North East Ohio…I had her for a few years stored in my trunk but if you Google Frances Reedy you will find she was quite an artist and doll collector in the 1960s to 1980s, I was impressed.”
Dressed in an off-white lace dress and pantaloons, the doll wears tan stockings and white painted-on shoes with soles added.  The feet are permanently attached to a wooden base.

I conducted an extensive search to gather additional information about this approximately 10-inch tall doll, permanently attached to a square wooden base, clutching a songbook to her bosom.  By the handwritten name on the bottom of the base, the doll is identified as Marian Anderson, who was the first African American to perform at the New York Metropolitan Opera in 1955.  During my online search, I found an identical doll owned by the Washington State Jewish Historical Society, which is part of their Dolls for Democracy and Diversity exhibit.  The exhibit is described on their website as follows:
These realistic dolls were made to be used by the B'nai B'rith around the U.S. and Canada as an inspiration to children proving that fame and success in life do not depend upon race, religion, family origins or money. B'nai B'rith Women utilized this collection of 38 handcrafted replicas of famous humanitarians in a unique program conducted in public and parochial schools from the 1950's through the 1970's. The women visited classrooms and, using these dolls, fostered dialogue about celebrating differences and overcoming adversity. In an era when diversity was a term found only in the dictionary, this program became popular among educators and volunteers alike.
Through the “contact us” link on their website, I wrote the WSJHS organization and inquired about the artist of the Marian Anderson doll.  Before my inquiry was answered, I located a link to their database listing of some of  the 38 dolls, which includes the name of the artist, Cecil Ruth Bullard Weeks.  My doll’s history was becoming more and more interesting.  She has traveled to classrooms in the United States from the 1950s through 1970s to educate non-black children on the potential for greatness of all people, regardless of race, religion, and/or other categories many humans tend to lump others into who do not share their ethnicity and/or beliefs.
As indicated by the list of dolls in the exhibit, dolls by Weeks in the likenesses of baseball great, Jackie Robinson and scientist, Dr. George Washington Carver, accompanied Anderson and the 35 others to classroom exhibits.  
Ms. Jessica Hyde, communications coordinator for WSJHS answered the inquiry sent through their website regarding the artist of the dolls.  She confirmed that all 38 dolls in the exhibit were made by Weeks with the exception of one and that, to her knowledge, of the 38, the three I have noted were the only African American dolls.*   In addition, Hyde provided a WORD document about the exhibit and the dolls’ artist, a portion of which is copied below:
The Dolls for Democracy and Diversity
This collection of thirty eight dolls [is] actually miniaturized three dimensional portraits of important figures in history.  Most of the dolls were hand made by portrait doll artist Cecil (Ruth Bullard) Weeks during the 1940s to early 1970s.  Only one doll, Wing Luke, was made in the Northwest by a doll maker from Portland, Oregon in 1992.  Women from the B’nai B’rith Society in King County and throughout the U.S. and Canada used the dolls to teach students about tolerance.  This is the first time that this doll collection is being shown to the public in their beautifully restored condition.  The dolls were recently restored by expert doll restorer Lisa Pepin of Shoreline, WA. 
The dolls represent many interesting figures in history some famous and some less known.  Wing Luke, a King County resident, was the first Asian American to hold elected office in the Northwest.  Other famous figures include Eleanor Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy and the first President of Israel Chaim Weitzmann .  Even more interesting are some of the lesser known figures such as Haym Salamon a Polish born Jew who helped finance the American Revolutionary War.
The birth of the Dolls for Democracy program
After World War II the Dolls for Democracy program was created by the B’nai B’rith Women’s organization (now known as Jewish Women International) in Kansas City, Missouri.  The program brought the hand- made portrait dolls of famous people in history to elementary classrooms throughout the United States and Canada.  The “Doll Ladies” gave talks to students about democracy.  They also had dolls representing individuals of different ethnic backgrounds to teach students about the concept of   tolerance.
About the Artist
Ruth Cecil Bullard Weeks (1894-1984) was an established portrait doll artist in 1951 when she was asked to make dolls for “The Fellowship House Doll Collection” as it was originally called.  She continued making the dolls when the program expanded and became known as the “Dolls for Democracy” program of the National B’nai B’rith Women.  Weeks and her husband made dolls for over 90 BBW Chapters across the country. There were at least 95 subject figures used in the program.  Not all were made by the Weeks who stopped making the dolls in the early 1970”s.  It has been estimated that Weeks and her husband James (J.S.) made over one thousand dolls for BBW Chapters around the country. 
Weeks made more than one of each doll for the Dolls for Democracy and Diversity exhibit.  The total sets of dolls made are unknown.  I know of three Marian Anderson dolls:  the one I own, the one the WSJHS website (formerly) linked to, and one owned by the collector who informed me about the eBay auction I won.  (Thank you D.S.)
The high cheekbones of the real Marian Anderson are captured in the doll by Weeks as shown in the above close-up image of the doll and the singer.

On this day, February 27th, of my 2015 wall calendar, in observation of her date of birth, Marian Anderson is described as:  “one of the 20th century’s most celebrated singers who became a symbol of the struggle to overcome discrimination in the arts, born, 1897.”  Happy birthday, Ms. Anderson, may you continue to rest your body and beautiful contralto voice in peaceful paradise. 
For additional information about the WSJHS and/or the Dolls for Democracy and Diversity Exhibit, please visit their website to inquire.  For more information about Marian Anderson, visit her official website

Related Links
WSJHS's Traveling Doll Exhibits
*This article includes a Dr. MLK doll (so there were more than three AA dolls in this collection).


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Maya's New Fashion, Shoes, and Exciting News

Maya's new handmade shoes

First seen here, where the steps taken to transform Big Beautiful Dolls Dasia into a one-of-a-kind Maya Angelou doll were shared, Maya now has a better fashion and sandals.  I was never happy with the sock dress I made for her originally.

Let's begin with the sandals.  The sandals that came with the fashion Maya now wears are too long for her feet.   So I made replacement sandals using tan foam, white elastic painted to match the foam, and brown beading cord, which was used as piping around the soles of the sandals.  Aleene's Tacky glue holds everything together.   See the side view of the sandals below:

The side view better illustrates brown piping used between the innersole and the bottom of the sandal, which also has a low heel added for the doll's not flat and not high-heeled foot.  The elasticized back band creates a nice ankle strap to hold these on securely, as illustrated next.

Maya models her new sandals.

A few weeks ago, while searching through my 18-inch doll clothing to find fashions for Little T, I stumbled upon Hearts 4 Hearts Rahel's original fashion (Rahel now wears her own school uniform).  I immediately visualized Maya wearing the Ethiopian inspired fashion that had been stored for years along with clothing of similar size.

Rahel's fashion and the handmade sandals suit Maya much better than the red sock dress she originally wore. 

I was amazed at how well the fashion fits her full-figured body.  The multiple beaded necklaces work well to shield the area between her face and neck.  (Creating a better face for the doll using the same process as before, but with a full color ink cartridge, is still a plan.)

In the above photo, Maya poses with my autographed copy of Maya Angelou's book, Mom & Me & Mom.  I won the book (as described in the original post about Dasia-turned-Maya) in a contest held by author, Jo Maeder.  Dr. Angelou originally autographed the book to Jo.  Below Dr. Angelou's autograph and inscription are Jo's autograph and inscription to me.


The Exciting News
I maintain a small collection of Black Heritage stamps issued by the US Postal Service and stamp lapel pins featuring African American leaders.  On February 23, 2015, the US Postal Service announced its plan to honor Maya Angelou with a Forever Stamp! Read more about their plan here.

News of the Forever Stamp makes me as equally proud as it has obviously made Dr. Angelou's family who posted the following Facebook status update on 02/25/15:  We are extremely grateful of the honor that is being bestowed upon our matriarch as the U.S. Postal Service prepares a stamp in recognition of the life work of Dr. Maya Angelou. More details to come, we’ll keep you posted. The Angelou Johnson family.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Cozy Coat and Dressy Dress Lizette

As she was upon arrival.

She is 16 inches tall, and I love every inch of Cozy Coat & Dressy Dress Lizette! 

During one of Wilde Imagination's sales back in January or earlier this month, I ordered this doll.  She remained in the unopened shipper until this past weekend when I finally found the time to open the box and give her a thorough examination.

Still in the box for all of two minutes, I took another in-box photo of Cozy Coat... Lizette.

Her fashion is much better than I expected and I was surprised (not having read the full description before ordering) that her wig is removable.  She is described by the Wilde Imagination folks as follows:
Honey-toned Lizette arrives with a swappable wig of mink tresses in a classic style and brown inset eyes peeking out behind thick lashes. Her delightfully feminine ensemble includes a darling pink and brown long-sleeved dress beneath a tender pink multi boucle coat just sparkling with sequins.  Paired with pink tights, booties, gloves matching her dress and a fuzzy faux fur scarf in soft pink, Lizette is cozy and dressy all at once!  LE 1000

Display stand included.
Before joining her sister-Lizettes, my sixth Lizette took the following photos to model her complete ensemble:

Instead of wearing her animal print gloves that match the fabric of her dress, Lizette opted to hold them. 
Lizette's pale pink faux fur scarf and her coat keep her nice and cozy.
With coat removed, still holding gloves, Lizette has draped her pink (it looks white, but it really is pink) fur scarf across her shoulder. She wears pink tights and pink suede anklets.  Such a breathtakingly lovely doll; it is difficult for me to resist buying new versions.

Will six be enough?  I am not sure, especially since Bold Move will be released soon. Time and sales will tell with "sale" being the deciding factor.


Monday, February 23, 2015

The Two Faces of Leslie

Madame Alexander Leslie, bride and ballerina, circa 1965/1966.  The bride has the Polly head sculpt.  The ballerina uses the Elise head sculpt. 

Madame Alexander released several versions of Leslie from the mid-1960s through the early-1970s.  Dolls given the name, Leslie, by Madame Alexander were only produced as African American.  Two head sculpts were used for the various versions, the Polly and Elise, named for the white dolls that originally used the sculpts.

Leslie with the Polly sculpt, the most frequently seen version, has fuller cheeks and an upturned smile.  The nose appears slightly broader than the Elise nose.

The nape of the neck on dolls with the Polly sculpt is marked:


Leslie with the Elise sculpt has a down-turned smile.  The Elise head is marked:

(The markings are very faint on my doll.)

Both versions have soft vinyl heads, arms, and legs with rigid plastic bodies.   Each stands 17-inches tall.  These two examples have brown sleep eyes and brown rooted hair

Leslie's costumes included a variety of bridal gowns.  The doll can also be found wearing ballerina costumes in pink or blue and possibly other pastel colors.  Casual ensembles were also made for Leslie.

 From the collection of Ruth Manning, Polly-faced Leslie wears a casual green dress.
Leslie in lime green dress, shown above, is one of the most frequently seen, casually dressed versions.  This doll's eyes appear darker than my bride and ballerina's, which might indicate she was from the final production years.

The label on the bride's box

The label on my bride's box shows she is style #1660.  Colors for costumes, hair, and eyes are included on the label but these do not necessarily pertain to Leslie dolls since there are options for blonde, platinum, and auburn hair and blue eyes. It appears the company stamped the name "Leslie" and the style number onto this generic Madame Alexander doll box label.

Another Polly-faced Leslie is dressed in Franklin Mint fashion.

An additional Leslie in my collection, shown above wearing a Franklin Mint fashion made for their Princess Diana doll, was purchased nude several years ago for a steal.  She is actually "my" Leslie #2, with the bride being my first.  The purple gown replicates a Versace gown worn in 1996 by Princess Di. "On her only trip to Chicago, Diana stopped by Northwestern University before stepping out in the school's colors at a gala the next day. She accessorized the Versace gown with Jimmy Choo shoes — a relatively unknown brand at the time."  The fashion created by Franklin Mint does not replicate the Choo shoes.  []  Franklin Mint included purple pumps with the fashion. 

While she is not a portrait doll, it has been written that actress Leslie Uggams, whose career was at its height during the time the doll entered the market, was the inspiration for the doll's first name.

Images of (mostly) other Leslie dolls can be seen in a Google "Madame Alexander Leslie" image search here.  The results of recently completed eBay auctions for Madame Alexander Leslie dolls can be seen here.

Addendum 1/14/2019:

A fourth Leslie joined my collection in March 2015.  Shown above, she wears a blue tutu.  See a blog post entry about this doll here.


Friday, February 20, 2015

Photos From 01/07/2015 - Dolls Beside Me

The big picture of mostly playscale dolls displayed to the left of my work-at-home desk.

On January 7, 2015, I took several photos of the (mostly) playscale dolls that surround me as I work.  The dolls are positioned on the corner of my childhood desk, atop two rolling file cabinets, and on built-in shelves (courtesy of my husband, who actually built my doll room).  Not shown are dolls that are on my work desk.  In essence, I am surrounded by dolls while I work and I cannot think of a better work environment.  See additional photos taken at different angles below.

Someone saw a glimpse of the dolls displayed on my work desk (not shown in any of these photos) and commented:  "I don't see how you get anything done."  Well, I am very productive. 

As a doll lover, could you work in a doll-filled environment or would it be too distracting?


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Prettie Girls! Tween Scene Dolls

One World Dolls has extended the Prettie Girls! line with their new Tween Scene dolls/

The 16-inch Tween Scene doll line by One World Dolls was developed through a partnership with Robert Tonner of Tonner Dolls.  According to their press release:

The Prettie Girls! Tween Scene is a line of 16 inch dolls that are representative of younger versions of the multi-cultural characters from the current Prettie Girls! line with 2 new additions, Hana, an Asian American and Alexie, a Caucasian. Other dolls in the Tween Scene line include Lena an African-American, Dahlia a South Asian, Kimani an African native and Valencia who is Hispanic American.

Follow the next link and click/tap the Tween Scene logo to open the album of all Tween Scene dolls at the company's website.

Read the press release here.

On first glance, I had hoped the dolls were produced in a 9- to 10-inch "Skipper" size.  Unfortunately, this is not the case.  Weigh in if you'd like in a comment on your first impression of the dolls.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Mike and Mike

My two Michael Jordan playscale figures were purchased as heads only, now placed on action figure bodies.  HeadPlay and Cian are the makers.  Seen here on the blog before in other posts, they return today in celebration of Jordan's birthday.  He was born on February 17, 1963 in Brooklyn, New York.
The Cian figure (on the right) is not a portrait of the now retired professional basketball player.  The one by HeadPlay on the left  unmistakably represents MJ. 

Read more about the real MJ here.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day!

From past blog posts with one new addition, these are images of dolls, Valentine's Day candy/graphics, and greeting cards celebrating the day devoted to love.

My Twinnn Berkeley holds Ginny, both are dressed in fashions sewn exclusively for them.

Trichelle and Darren celebrate a moment together.
Most popular children's Valentine's Day candy

A custom Valentine's Day Wendy wishes you a Happy Valentine's Day. 

Wearing a love-themed fashion, Artsy extends wishes of love.


Grace and (the same) Darren with longer hair share a quiet moment. (What happened to Trichelle?) 

Mahogany/Hallmark Valentine's Day Card with greeting that reads: 
On Valentine's Day
and all year through,
I'm glad to have a friend like You!

Happy ♥ Day!


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Fashion Doll Clones by Excite

Vickie's Wedding Day Play Set

Found on the same day, and I believe their auctions ended on the same day as well, were three 11-1/2 inch fashion dolls distributed by Excite.   The dolls were offered in two separate auctions. 

Self-described as, "a toy manufacturer and importer, Excite takes its mission to constantly search the market for hot, new toys seriously! For over 30 years, Excite Limited has been delivering on-trend, competitively priced toys to major U.S. retailers."  Prior to finding these three boxed dolls, I'd never heard of this Carrollton, Texas-based company.

Since I collect dark-skinned, non-Barbies, I entered my maximum bids for both auctions, $8 for Vickie's Wedding Doll Playset and Click Chicks which were offered together and $2.50 for Vickie's Fashion Doll Purse Shop.  Sold by different sellers, the dolls arrived on the same day. 

The Wedding Doll Playset includes the 11-1/2 inch doll and two approximately 5-inch dolls to serve as ring bearer, a boy, and flower girl.  A jewelry pack of two sets of extra earrings and necklaces, and two bracelets are attached to the liner. Vickie wears faux pearls and pearl studs with her wedding gown.  The back of the box illustrates the two blond sets.

The back of the Wedding Day Playset illustrates two blonds.

Close-up of Vickie and the little ones.

Click Chicks doll includes an interchangeable head.
Click Chicks (offered with the Wedding Playset) includes an interchangeable head with base.  The neck knobs attached to the base and doll's body allow easy removal of the heads.  The doll has reddish brown crimped hair; the extra head has straight brown hair with pink bangs and brown eyes.  The doll is dressed in a pink polyester fleece jacket, black gathered halter top, blue denim pants, pink striped belt, and brown mid-calf boots. 

The extra fashion includes a red blouse, white plaid skirt, purple anklets, and pink shoulder bag.  A brush/comb combination and extra silver earrings and necklace are attached to the box liner.  The doll and extra head wear silver earrings. 

The neck knob on the base and on the doll are identical.

There are two white versions of Click Chicks illustrated on the back of the box. 
Vickie's Fashion Doll Purse Shop by Excite/Kids Stuff

Also distributed by Excite, is Vickie's Fashion Doll Purse Shop sold under the Kids Stuff brand. 

Vickie has black rooted hair, painted eyes and wears purple stud earrings that match her purple halter and pencil skirt.  She holds a black hand bag. 

Pink high heels are attached to the box liner along with five purses for her shop with two extras in the display case of the purple counter.  A purple cash register is also included.  This is quite a lot for $2.50 (plus shipping of course).

Again, as illustrated on the back of this Vickie's box, two blond versions were sold separately.  One is dressed like Vickie.  The other wears pink and has a pink display counter and cash register (see the final photo.)
Blond versions of Vickie's Fashion Doll Purse Shop illustrated on back of box

None of the boxes of these made-in-China dolls were dated. Excite's website does not include these in their current product line or any other dolls.  My best guess is they were manufactured within the past five to ten years or so.  Prior to their arrival, I did not have a Vickie or a head mold similar to that of the Click Chicks doll.


Monday, February 9, 2015

Thrift Store Calista, Can You Find Me?

18-inch Calista by MGA Entertainment has a copyright year of 2010

"What a mess!" regarding the hair, was my immediate thought upon finding 18-inch Calista by MGA Entertainment in the large doll, stuffed animal bin at the local thrift store.  Her sweet face seemed to plead, "Take me with you."  So I brought her home in hopes that her mane could be tamed.

Below are additional before picture of the hair (again, what a mess!).

Calista's prior owner gave her multiple tattoos that I hoped were not permanent!
Creative (?) leg art -- not shown is another mark on the back of one leg.
What Was Done
I tackled the hair by washing it and slathering on lots of conditioner that I left on for a few hours before the detangling process began.  Due to the inferior quality of the hair fibers MGA Entertainment used, it was impossible to smooth out the ends after detangling, one small section at a time.  I opted to give Calista a fat ponytail, the ends of which are held together with four additional black ponytail holders. 

This is as tame as it gets for now.  At a future time I might attempt a boil perm, but for now, the ponytail must do.
No more tattoos, almost.

Fortunately, most of the ankle and leg art was done with washable markers. I was able to remove all with the exception of one mark on the back of one leg and a small dot elsewhere (not shown).

After the refresh, Calista posed with Calista #1, whose copyright year is 2009.  The two dolls have different neck markings and the number that appears on their painted-on panties differs as well.  The thrift store doll, who is missing her glasses, is clearly the second edition.  The 2009 doll was redressed shortly after arrival in a Friends 2B Made doll ensemble and red canvas clogs that came with a Magic Attic doll fashion. 

Wearing what appeared to be original clothes, I found shoes to match Calista #2's red top (which is a little large at the shoulders).  The found shoes were not a perfect fit; therefore, a total redress was in order.

After the redress original Calista's BFF, Kimberly, joined the girls for a picture.

Calista #2 wears Calista #1's extra fashion; #1 is dressed in a Friends 2B Made ensemble, and Kimberly wears Calista's original fashion.  Their shoes were all made for Magic Attic dolls.

The three girls entered/returned to their display area.  Calista #2 asks, "Can you find me?"

Where's Calista #2?