Thursday, April 26, 2018

A Few New Things

Barbie Fashionista #80 (Cheerful Check) and Skipper Babysitters Inc.

When placing a preorder for the Katherine Johnson Barbie at the Barbie.Mattel website in March 2018, I also carted the above two dolls that were available for shipping.

Fashionista #80 (Cheerful Check, now CeeCee) and the Skipper Babysitters Inc. doll arrived soon after the order was placed.  Both still remain in their boxes.

This 11-inch doll has light brown painted eyes, parted lips, painted teeth, and black rooted hair styled in two Afro puffs.  She wears a yellow and black check shirt dress, silvertone necklace, and red high-heel shoes

Skipper is a 10-inch tall doll with brown painted eyes and smiling, parted lips.  She has a curly Afro and wears a blue denim mock overall dress with a mock striped shirt and black high-top sneakers.  She holds a yellow cell phone.  Attached to the box is a pink plastic water jar.  CeeCee will eventually be removed from her box, but Skipper will remain boxed as an addition to my NFRB Black Skipper collection.

The back of Skipper's box, shown above, illustrates the other Babysitters Inc. dolls.

Barbie on the Go and Skipper Babysitters Inc. baby
Other recent arrivals include Barbie on the Go and a baby from the Skipper Babysitters Inc. collection, shown above.  The Barbie on the Go doll is a bobblehead and stands about 4-1/2 inches tall.  The baby is approximately 2-1/2 inches tall.

There are six different Barbie on the Go dolls illustrated on the back of the box.

Fashionista #90 (Rainbow Bright) is an 11-1/2-inch nonarticulated Barbie with black rooted straight hair with a middle part.  She has brown painted eyes, wears bright blue eyeshadow, and has pink (again Mattel?) lip color.  She wears a rainbow-colored sheath and silver hoop earrings.  White sneakers cover her flat feet.

Fashionista #90, Rainbow Bright, is the most recent doll to arrive.  Her deboxing, complexion comparison, and redressing will be shared in a follow-up post.  Enjoy one more photo of her below.

Fashionista #90 has a lovely face.  Her complexion appears to match that of Princess of South Africa, but as indicated, a thorough complexion comparison will be posted separately.

The following spring/summer Sparkle Girlz fashions are also recent arrivals.  CeeCee and Fashionista #90 (now named Ryan) plan on being the first dolls to model these as soon as they gain their freedom.

A rolled collar, off-the-shoulder dress has a green knit bodice and green print skirt.  The orange and yellow floral-print dress includes a pink handbag.

These are two denim ensembles, one with paisley-print top and handbag; and one with blue and white gingham, peasant-style blouse.

Two additional knit dresses, one is all knit with long sleeves, the other is sleeveless with wide collar and handbag.  While writing this caption, I noticed the dress on the left is missing the shoes that were obviously stolen in the store.  In another Walmart recently, I was about to purchase a different Sparkle Girlz fashion before realizing the shoes that came with it were missing.  Good grief!  These fashions only cost $1.97, yet people will steal the shoes and/or the entire fashions.  I have seen empty Sparkle Girlz fashion cards in Walmart stores as well.

A two-piece short set has yellow and white striped top, floral shorts and gray high heels.  A one-piece halter top with attached denim-type shorts has a gray handbag.

With the exception of CeeCee, Skipper, and Ryan, all the above items were found at two local Walmart stores.  Ryan (Fashionista #90) was ordered from Amazon.  Reminder to self and to anyone who reads:  When selecting Sparkle Girlz fashions to purchase, be sure everything that is supposed to be on the card is there.

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Monday, April 23, 2018

Circa 1950s Sock Doll Pair and Others

Circa 1950s Sock Dolls

These 7-inch dolls made from brown sock material entered the doll family in March 2018.  Both have sewn-on felt facial features with side-glancing eyes, and black yarn loops of hair.  On the front sides and top, the girl has five tiny pieces of yarn tied with red yarn to create pigtails.

The dolls will need the assistance of a doll stand to stand alone.

The boy wears a red polka dot shirt, red yarn bow at neck, red pants with white felt buttons around the waist, and red shoes with red ribbon laces.  The girl wears the same style shoes, a red polka dot dress with green felt floral appliqué and matching panties.

The dolls posed with my sock dolls are 5-3/4-inch cloth dolls, Andy Organdy and Mandy Organdy, by Deb Canham.  They were first seen in this post of April 30, 2014.  The cloth fabric used to make Andy and Mandy is sock-like but is actually a cotton knit fabric.

Sock doll by Rev. LaVerne Hall

One other doll that was purchased in 2014 that I could not find documented here on the blog is a 14-inch sock doll by Rev. LaVerne Hall.  The doll has yarn hair styled in two ponytails with bangs and has a featureless face.  She wears denim pants with a sweater, also made from a sock, white socks, and black high-top sneakers.

After recently cleaning out his sock drawer, my husband asked me if I wanted his old socks to make a sock doll.  I told him I would pass, but suggested that he keep a couple and make one himself.  He did but has yet to make that doll.  For those who might be interested in trying their hand at making a sock doll, I found the following link with photos and a separate video which might be useful.

How to Make a Sock Doll Instructions with Photos

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Monday, April 16, 2018

Black Doll Story Books and Other Favorite Doll Tales

Several years ago, I received a list of Black doll storybooks. I am not sure who compiled the list; therefore, I cannot extend credit. I wanted to share these titles here for others who might be interested in purchasing these books for themselves or (with the exception of two titles*) for children you know or educate.

Chalk Doll, The by Charlotte Pomerantz (Harpy Trophy, 1989).  Mother tells Rose about growing up in Jamaica and making her own rag doll because she couldn't afford a store-bought chalk doll.

Daisy and the Doll by Michael Medearis and Angela S. Medearis (The Vermont Folklife Center, 2000).  Daisy, an eight-year-old Black girl living in rural Vermont in the 1890s is given a Black doll by her teacher.  She becomes uncomfortable that her skin is a different color than her classmates.  She then finds the courage to speak from her heart.

Elizabeti's Doll by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen (Scholastic Inc., 1998).  A young Black girl watched her mother care for her new baby brother.  She wanted to care for her own baby.  She searches until she finds an object that she can use as her very own doll baby to care for.

Minnie Saves the Day (The Adventures of Minnie by Melodye Benson Rosales (Little, Brown and Company, 2001).  Hester Merriweather's grandmother gives her a handmade doll that proves to be very special.  Includes historical background on Chicago's African American community during the 1930s.

Nettie Joe's Friends by Patricia C. McKissack (Alfred A. Knopf, 1989).  Mama won't let Nettie Jo Take her scraggly old doll to cousin Willadeen's wedding unless she has a new dress.  The story is in a rich southern storytelling tradition.

Sitting Pretty a Celebration of Black Dolls by Diane Johnson (Henry Holt and Company, 2000).  In poetry and photographs Black dolls, most, simply made cloth, from around the world are used to illustrate the author's original writings.

Additional Black doll storybooks not included in the above list:

The All-I’ll-Ever-Want Christmas Doll by Patricia C. McKissack (Schwartz and Wade Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, 2007).  The Christmas holiday season of the Great Depression provides the setting for this delightful, thought-provoking story.  Because of their meager circumstances, “Santy” rarely visited Nella’s house with gifts for her and her two sisters, Eddy Bernice and Dessa.  This year was different.  Santy brought the beautiful chocolate-brown, Baby Betty doll that Nella longed to receive.  Events occur after the doll’s arrival resulting in Nella learning a valuable lesson.

Almost to Freedom by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson (Scholastic Inc., 2003).  Sally, a Black rag doll, recants the story of a slave family’s escape to freedom via the Underground Railroad.  

Becky by Julia Wilson (Ty Crowell Company, 1966).  Becky sets out on a shopping trip to find a doll that looks like her. She does, but due to its cost, she is unable to purchase the doll until something magical happens!

Beloved Belindy by Johnny Gruelle (P. F. Volland, 1926).  The Beloved Belindy book contains several short stories about the goings-on in the make-believe Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy doll nursery. [In this 1920s American storybook, Beloved Belindy serves as mammy to doll characters Raggedy Ann and Andy.]

The Magic Doll a Book Inspired by African Art by Adrienne Yabouza, illustrated by Elodie Nouhen (Prestel Junior, 2020). Editorial Review, "In a small village in West Africa, a young girl explains the special way she was born. Her mother had difficulty getting pregnant, so she seeks help in the form of a doll which she treats like a human baby, carrying it on her back and covering it with kisses. Months go by and finally the woman's belly begins to grow! This beautiful story explores the Akua-Ba fertility figures of the Akan people of Ghana, while also depicting the deep love a mother has for her children."

My Doll, Keshia by Eloise Greenfield (Black Butterfly Children’s Books, 1991).  This baby board book is a story about a little girl who, with the help of her big brother, and through imaginative play, teaches her doll to walk, dance, wave, sing and talk.  

Rag Doll Tales by Yvonne Augustin (Mindstar Media, 2012).  A young slave mother sews a rag doll to give her daughter.  Even though the doll was a girl, she named it Eugene, after the child's father so the daughter, who was sold away, would remember her roots.  The doll would be passed down for generations that span from slavery to the Civil Rights Movement.

Topsy Turvy’s Pigtails by Bernice G. Anderson (Rand McNally  & Company, 1938).  Topsy Turvy lives in the Comical Doll House down by the Crooked Lane with Mr. and Mrs. Turvy.  Topsy is a Black-stocking doll.  She has four pigtails of which she is very proud.  After the prim and proper Mrs. Turvy threatens to cut off Topsy’s pigtails, Topsy decides to run away.  During her run, Topsy encounters four different animals who take things away from her! 

*Note:  Beloved Belindy and Topsy Turvy's images might be considered derogatory and not recommended for today's children.  


Other Favorite Doll Storybooks (none of these books are about Black Dolls):

Best Loved Doll by Rebecca Caudill (Henry Holt and Company, 1992).  For a doll contest at a party, a girl chooses to enter a doll that seems least likely to win a prize.

Doll Lady, (The by H. Elizabeth Collins-Varni (Illumination Arts, 2001).  An inspiring story about a woman who spends her life making dolls to give to the children she loved.

Elisabeth by Claire A. Nivola (Frances Foster Books, 1997).  Forced to flee the Nazis, a young girl and her family eventually end up in the United States where years later, with a young daughter of her own, she is reunited with the beloved doll she left behind in Germany.

Gingerbread Doll, (The) by Susan Tews (Clarion Books, 1993).  The year is 1930 and Rebecca and her family are celebrating their first Christmas on their Wisconsin farm.  Rebecca wants a porcelain doll she's seen in the store window but she knows her family has no money for fancy toys.

Little Oh by Laura Krauss Melmed (Lothrop, Lee and Shepard Books, 1997). A lonely woman folds a little doll from origami paper then places it in a box.  The origami paper doll springs from the box exclaiming, "Good Morning Mother!"

Paper Princess Finds Her Way Home, (The) by Elisa Kleven (Puffin Books, 1994).  A little girl makes a picture of a paper doll princess that comes to life and is carried off by the wind.  With luck, she finds her way home.

Scrap Doll, (The) by Liz Rosenberg (Charlotte Zolotow Books, 1991).  A little girl fixes up her mother's old doll and learns that something made at home with love can be much better than most beautiful store-bought presents.

The Kingfisher Book of Toy Stories
-Raggedy Ann Rescues Fido
-The Steadfast Tin Soldier
-Adventure in the Garden
-The Little Girl and the Tiny Doll, etc.  A collection of eight stories about toys and childhood by authors such as Johnny Gruell and Russell Hoban.  Compiled by Laura Cecil (Kingfisher, 2002).

William's Doll by Charlotte Zolotow (Harper Trophy, 1972).  More than anything, William wants a doll. Silly, says his brother.  Sissy, says the boy next door.  Finally, someone understands William's wish and makes it easy for others to understand, too.

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Thursday, April 12, 2018

...Black Doll Exhibition Explores Women’s Craft...

The image above and the text below are from the Culture Type article, "In Paris, Black Doll Exhibition Explores Women’s Craft, History of Childhood Play, and Dynamics of America’s Racial Structure"
by  on  • 6:58 am

"EUROPEAN MUSEUMS ARE EXPOSING THEIR AUDIENCES to works by African Americans artists that reflect and respond to the history of race in United States. Two major exhibitions, “The Color Line: African American Artists and Segregation” at Le musée du quai Branly in Paris (2016), and “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power,” organized by the Tate Modern in London (2017), explored the intersection of art and politics during the Jim Crow, civil rights, and Black Power eras.
"A new exhibition at La Maison Rouge in Paris presents art objects produced during an earlier period in American history. “Black Dolls: The Deborah Neff Collection” (2018) features more than 200 dolls hand made between the 1840s and 1940s. While the other exhibitions present works made by artists intended as art objects, these items were crafted as items of everyday play and companionship for children. The dolls are believed to be designed and crafted by African Americans, primarily black women, for their own children or for the white children in their charge, during and after slavery. They are objects of beauty, curiosity and originality, toys that speak to the history of race, gender roles, domestic relationships, and caregiving."
Read the rest of the article here.

Neff's collection of black dolls are beautifully photographed and described in the book, Black Dolls:  From the Collection of Deborah Neff

Get a 34-second glimpse of the collection in the following video.


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Monday, April 9, 2018

Presenting Leontyne Grace by Frantz Brent-Harris

Doll box for 2018 WLBDA Club Doll, Leontyne Grace by Frantz Brent-Harris

In March 2017, my online doll group, We Love Black Dolls Anew, commissioned Jamaican-born Canadian doll artist, Frantz Brent-Harris of Sona dolls, to create our 2018 club doll.  The inspiration for asking Brent-Harris to create our doll was his 12-inch, full-figured resin doll, Monica.  Monica was initially created to include in one of his exhibitions, but because of intense interest in the doll, a limited edition was created.  I fell in love with Monica after seeing Facebook photos the artist shared and after reading Roxanne's blog post about her doll (the link to that post is provided at the end of this post).

To set our limited edition dolls apart from Monica, WLBDA members selected a medium brown complexion for our doll and requested a different head sculpt.  I asked that the hands be slightly more relaxed.  We also wanted a signed certificate of authenticity, a doll stand, and box.  Frantz complied with our wishes.  Everything else with regard to the doll's hairstyle, clothing, shoes, etc. was left to the artist's creative interpretation and remained a mystery for everyone except me* until the dolls were shipped and received by members.

*I had seen a few photos (as illustrated above) of the doll-in-progress and the final finished doll before they were shipped.

This is one of the photos the artist shared prior to shipping our dolls to us.

My reaction after seeing photos of the dolls prior to shipping is captured in a Facebook Messenger message to the artist:

I am blown away! She is gorgeous! Wow! I love the box, too. It's as classy appearing as the doll.
She is amazing!!!!!
I can hardly wait for my doll to arrive. I want to show these photos to the ladies, but I don't want to spoil the element of surprise. Wow, just wow! Can't wait to write a blog post about her.

By the end of the first week in April, everyone had received their doll and their reactions can be summed up in two words:  She's exquisite! 

Prior to receiving my doll, I also sent the following message to Frantz:

(I don't have a phrase for a doll artist who has outdone himself, but what we say to people who have cooked a very good dish, "You put your foot in it." (This must translate to a person putting their whole heart and soul into something they've done). You did that!

And he did!  So now please allow me to present some of the multiple photographs taken of my gorgeous, 12-inch, full-figured, resin beauty, Leontyne Grace (named by the artist after opera singer Leontyne Price and singer/super-model/actress Grace Jones):

Leontyne Grace wears a red and black houndstooth dress, belted at the waist with a wide black patent-leather belt, gold and black beaded necklace, and red stiletto pumps.

She definitely has curves, which she proudly shows off in the above and next photo.

Leontyne Grace is articulated at the usual five points.  Her head, arms, and legs and strung.

Leontyne Grace has a beautiful face that expresses an air of confidence.  She wears a removable custom-made wig made from super soft, curly fibers.  This lovely doll has beautifully-painted arched eyebrows and brown eyes that seem to see through you and beckon recognition. Her dark lip color complements her sepia complexion. 
Without her wig, Leontyne Grace is as lovely as she is wearing it, as illustrated in this photo and the next photos that were taken using different lighting.
Leontyne Grace is breathtakingly gorgeous!
With each doll is included a doll stand (not shown), a numbered, signed certificate of authenticity, shown here and a doll box, shown next.  While the certificate indicates there are 20 dolls, only 15 were made including the artist's proof.
The custom-designed, woodgrain-paper-covered doll box is personalized with the doll's name and the club's name.

I love Leontyne Grace.  I am very grateful that Frantz was able to accommodate our request to make our 2018 WLBDA Club Doll.

Read Roxanne's review of Martini Beach Monica here.  She is one of the 15 who owns Leontyne Grace and plans to write a blog review of her doll as well.

To contact Frantz Brent-Harris about his doll art, his email address is

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Thursday, April 5, 2018

Bertabel's Mary McLeod Bethune Found Me

Mary McLeod Bethune, a Bertabel's Doll by I. Roberta Bell, 1969
Made in 1969 by I. Roberta Bell, this 17-inch portrait doll of Mary McLeod Bethune entered the collection in February of this year.  The purchase motivated me to complete my formerly dormant article on Mrs. Bell.  As indicated in my prior post on Bell's Pedlar Doll, research on the Bell article commenced in 2013.  Now completed, a link to the said article is provided below, but please allow me to first introduce you to Mary McLeod Bethune.

Part of the I. Roberta Bell/Berta Bell's Black Americans series, later called African American Heritage Dolls, the portrait doll of Mary McLeod Bethune was the second doll in the series.  Mrs. Bell made several African American Heritage series sets, each of which contained 26 dolls.

This doll has distinctive facial features similar to Mrs. Bethune, who was an educator, civil rights activist, and founder of Bethune-Cookman College (now Bethune-Cookman University).  This historically black college (now university) is located in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Sculpted in porcelain with sawdust-filled tan cloth body, the doll has clenched hands.  According to the artist, Bethune talked with her hands clenched.  The eyes are painted brown.  Her gray hair is pulled back with the sides and ends rolled and tucked.

The Bethune doll is dressed in a two-piece heather gray flannel suit, pink crepe blouse with lace embellishment, straw hat, tan taffeta undergarments, knee-high stockings, and black vinyl shoes.  Pinned to the lapel of her coat is a lavender flower. 

Ms. Bethune died the year I was born, but well into my teens, I was reminded of her existence and contributions to the African American community through classroom studies and books I read on my own about past African American historical leaders.  

While packing the doll for shipment to me, the seller found the above newspaper clipping which had been tucked inside the doll's jacket.  (This is something that we, as collectors, do for future reference and/or to enhance our information about a doll.)  

Formerly owned by a woman who inherited her mother's collection, I was contacted by email to inquire if I had any interest in the doll.  After the transaction was completed and the doll arrived in beautiful, near pristine condition, I wrote the former owner to let her know I was pleased and asked how she found me.  Her reply was,

I am so glad Mary arrived safe and sound!  I just did a search for “who would buy Mary McLeod Bethune dolls” online and that’s how I found your black dolls blog.  I found your email at the bottom of the first page.  So happy to pass on one of my mom’s dolls to someone that will love her just as much!
And I do... I love her very much and have honored the woman who made her, I. Roberta Bell, in a three-part article which can be read on my Ebony-Essence of Dolls in Black blog here!

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Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Pedlar Doll by I. Roberta Bell

Pedlar Doll by I. Roberta Bell, 1986.

Purchased in March 2014, this 15-inch doll with hand-sculpted porcelain face was made by I. Roberta Bell in 1986.
Named "Pedlar Doll" by the artist, she has porcelain lower arms and hands and sawdust-filled light brown cloth body, legs, and feet.  A label that reads "Certified NIADA Doll" is on the doll's stomach.

Her eyes are painted brown.  Her gray hair is pulled back into a bun.  

Pedlar Doll wears permanently-placed black stud earrings, black satin dress, white apron, white slip, white pantaloons over white tights, and black mock-laced shoes.  Her burnt orange cape, lined in black, is made of flannel.

Because she represents a pedlar (one who, more chiefly in the nineteenth century, would go from place to place or house to house selling small items), she holds a basket of wares.  Note that Bell used the British spelling of "pedlar," more commonly spelled, peddler.  According to the Strong National Museum of Play, pedlar dolls were popular between 1820 to 1860.

Inside this pedlar's basket, which hangs from her neck by a gold cord, are a toy truck, white Victorian-style porcelain doll, plastic hammer, and utensils.  From the sides of the basket hang a figure of a sleeping man wearing a sombrero, a plastic car, false teeth, pan and skillet, and three pairs of plastic scissors.

Text on the inside of the hang tag certifies that Mrs. Bell was a member of the National Institute of American Doll Artists (NIADA), an organization of esteemed artists of handmade dolls.

"Pedlar Doll" is written on the front of her hang tag.  The inside reads, "Bertabel's Dolls by I. Roberta Bell, Artist Member, National Institute of American Doll Artists" (typed) and handwritten, "250. 4-1986 age 82."  The number 250 might have been the doll's original price.  4-1986 indicates the month and year the doll was made at Mrs. Bell's age 82.

This doll, whose ethnicity is ambiguous, has been patiently waiting for me to write and publish this post.  Doing so was delayed because my plan was to include her in an article about Mrs. Bell that I began researching in 2013.  The purpose of the said article is to contribute to the dearth of online information available about the artist.  Because that article will soon be published on my Ebony-Essence of Dolls in Black blog, this post on Pedlar Doll was published.

In an undated image that accompanied Pedlar Doll, Mrs. Bell, second from left, is seen at a doll exhibit sponsored by Guys & Gals Funtastique Doll Club.

Please stay tuned to learn more about I. Roberta Bell, a remarkable woman, an educator, a collector turned doll artist, who, in the 1960s, began using her dolls to teach Black history in her Chicago classrooms and community.

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