Thursday, February 27, 2020

Marian Anderson and WSJHS's Dolls for Democracy and Diversity

Because it's the "born" day of renowned singer, Marian Anderson, I am republishing this blog post which was first published on February 27, 2015.

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 at least four AA dolls in the series.
List and Thumbnail Images of Some of the Dolls for Democracy

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There are countless items to collect and write about. Black dolls chose me.
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Monday, February 24, 2020

Baby Small Talk and Drowsy's Appearances on Julia

Baby Small Talk (1968) and Drowsy (head is marked 1964) by Mattel

After actress Diahann Carroll passed away in 2019, I discovered that the Aspire TV network airs several back-to-back episodes of Julia on Monday through Saturday mornings.  Ms. Carroll played the lead role as Julia Baker, a widow raising her son, Corey Baker, played by Marc Copage who was only 5 when the show first aired.

I have been recording the show and to date have 80 episodes.  A total of 86 episodes aired during the show's three seasons which ran from September 17, 1968, to March 23, 1971.

Mattel's Baby Small Talk was featured in two episodes and Drowsy, a pull-string talker, has been seen in three.

The following still photos were captured while the episodes in which the dolls appear were aired.  I took more than one photo in an attempt to get good angles of the dolls.

Eleanor (Demetra Ann McHenry) arrives at Julia's apartment holding Drowsy in Season 1, Episode 29.

Season 1, Episode 29, "The Doctor's Dilemma." Drowsy and Baby Small Talk both appear in this episode. Julia's former mother's helper, Carol, played by Allison Mills, has eloped leaving Julia without a mother's helper/babysitter for Corey. Carol's mother, played by Virginia Capers, takes Carol's place as mother's helper for Julia and Corey and brings along her younger daughter, Eleanor, who is around Corey's age (played by Demetra Ann McHenry). Mrs. Deering also brings a host of other Black children with her because she feels Corey needs Black friends. Eleanor holds Drowsy and another child has Baby Small Talk. Three additional photos from this episode are next.

Corey rejects role play that includes playing with a girl and her doll and is being reprimanded by his new mother's helper, Mrs. Deering.
These are the several children Mrs. Deering (Virginia Capers) brought to Julia's apartment because she felt Corey didn't have Black friends. Julia, upon arrival home from work, admonishes Mrs. Deering for assuming Corey didn't have other friends besides his white neighbor, Earl J. Waggedorn. (The little girl in the light blue dress holds Baby Small Talk.)

***


S2 E4 "Two's a Family, Three's a Crowd."  Corey thinks he's getting a new sibling, a brother but finds out it's a girl.

Season 2, Episode 4, "Two's a Family, Three's a Crowd."  Julia agrees to keep a little girl for the weekend whose single father is thinking about putting her up for adoption.   Dr. Chegley (Lloyd Nolan) brings the girl, Claudia, to Julia's apartment.  Later, the father shows up with the girl's doll (Drowsy) and her pillow.  In this scene, the father arrives holding Drowsy and a pillow.  Claudia lets her dad know how much fun she's been having and tells her dad that Corey has strong muscles.  Corey flexes his muscles and asked the man if he wants to feel them.  The dad was played by Ford Lile.  Claudia was played by Kristi Taylor.

During the same scene of  S2 E4 "Two's a Family, Three's a Crowd," Claudia's dad and Julia go to the kitchen to get dad a drink of water where Drowsy and the pillow are placed on a counter.
***

S3, E7, Julia comes home from work to prepare to go to the community center where she works one night a week.  She forgot she had promised Steve to type some papers for him.

Julia invites Steve and Kim (and Drowsy) up to her apartment.

Season 3, Episode 7, "Magna Cum Lover."  Julia and her boyfriend, Steve  Bruce, (Fred Williamson) and his daughter Kim Bruce (Stephanie James) are seen on the stairs that lead to Julia's apartment.  Kim holds Drowsy.  Little Miss James can be seen in a Getty Images photo with her television dad, Fred Williamson here.  The photo was taken during the filming of "Magna Cum Lover."

***

"Kim" holds Baby Small Talk (S3, E17)

Season 3, Episode 17 "Cool Hand Bruce."  Steve Bruce and Julia have a date.  He brings Kim who will be cared for by Roberta, Corey's sitter. Kim holds Baby Small Talk as she enters Julia's apartment.

***
Baby Small Talk, Mattel 1968

About Baby Small Talk
Baby Small Talk, is a 10-1/2-inch pull-string talker by Mattel that was available from 1968-1969. The doll has a vinyl head, arms and legs, and a rigid plastic body.

Closeup of Baby Small Talk

Baby Small Talk's rooted hair is brown as are her painted eyes. The mouth is open to expose two upper and two lower teeth. She wears her original aqua and white polka dot dress with daisy appliqu├ęs, white panties, and a pink hair ribbon. Baby Small Talk says eight different “baby-talk” phrases. Seven of these are:

"I love you."
"Kiss baby."
"I’m sleepy."
"Go bye-bye."
"Nite-Nite."
"Play Patty Cake."
"Baby Sleepy."

***

Drowsy by Mattel has 1964 copyright year on the head.

About Drowsy
Drowsy is a 15-inch pull-string talker. The white version was introduced in 1964 by Mattel and had vinyl hands.  My version has a vinyl head and brown cloth hands.  Her stuffed cloth body, arms, legs, and feet are covered with her sewn-on pink and white polka dot flannel romper which has white eyelet trim at the sleeves and collar.  The collar is not attached to the romper. Drowsy's hands are brown cloth.

Closeup of Drowsy

This sleepy doll has rooted dark brown hair and painted brown drowsy eyes. My doll can only giggle now.  Some of Drowsy's original phrases are:

"Mommy, I'm sleepy."
"I want another drink of water."
"I want to stay up."
"Mommy, come pick me up."
"I go sleep now, night-night."
"Mommy loves baby."
"Close your mouth, mommy."

Drowsy was sculpted by renowned doll artist, Martha Armstrong-Hand, who also sculptedBaby Beans, Baby Love 'N Touch, Rose Bud, and the Steffie (Barbie) face mold, just to name a few.

Neither Baby Small Talk nor Drowsy talked on the Julia episodes.  The dolls were used as companions for the two little actresses who starred in the above-mentioned episodes.

If you are a Julia show enthusiast, like me, and you've seen other dolls on episodes not mentioned here, please let me know and I'll add the information to this post.


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Related Links
Diahann Carroll and Julia Dolls
Diahann Carroll as Julia Paper Dolls
Childhood Dolls From the Past

There are countless items to collect and write about. Black dolls chose me.
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Saturday, February 22, 2020

Black Artist Dolls Video Presentation by Deborah Butler Johnson


During the 2019 UFDC Convention, Deborah Butler-Johnson conducted a Black Artist Dolls presentation.  In conjunction with Ruby Lane, the presentation is available to view for UFDC members under the members' tab at the UFDC website.  I am honored to have had several of my dolls featured in this beautiful presentation.

Bravo Deborah!  Bravo!

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There are countless items to collect and write about. Black dolls chose me.
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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Shiona Turini's Barbie Styles


The photo and text are from the Barbiestyle Instagram page・・・ Proud to collaborate with stylist and creative consultant @shionat for this series celebrating diversity through fashion. "It was important for me to reflect on Barbie as an icon through the lens of black culture during Black History Month. I drew inspiration from the first black Barbie seated in her all-red look. I incorporated her into the lineup with no alteration and built new looks with inspiration from an outfit ➡️ that makes me feel confident and empowered"- Shiona Turini. ❤️ #shionaturini #blackhistorymonth #barbie #barbiestyle
https://www.instagram.com/p/B8sSttTJgbU/?igshid=wxn59s2d4wqt

See the four OOAK fashion collections by Shiona Turini in the People. com article here.

Ms. Turini designed the costumes for the movie Queen & Slim.

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There are countless items to collect and write about. Black dolls chose me.
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Fresh Dolls Tamra's Redress

Fresh Dolls Tamra, Wave 1

I have owned Fresh Dolls Tamra since 2017.  She has waited patiently to be deboxed.  All the while she has been envious of her sister, Mia, who enjoyed an immediate deboxing upon arrival in 2017.  Of all the Fresh Dolls I own (all of the dolls from wave 1 and the Fresh Squad guys), Mia is the only doll that has enjoyed being free.  Mia has also enjoyed being redressed on several occasions.

I took this snapshot of Tamra's box after she was released because it will soon be discarded.

After deciding to participate in a Black History month redressing event with the Fresh Dolls Facebook group, I decided to debox Tamra.  Initially, I was going to debox the ebony-complexioned Lynette shown here with Mia and Tamra, but Tamra was the first Fresh doll I found.

Tamra posed for this out-of-box photograph while still wearing her original clothing.
The bodice of Tamra's original dress is orange. The multicolored ethnic-print skirt has a mock wrap front. She originally wore blue strappy wedge sandals.

Tamra undressed.  I stored her clothes and shoes to prepare her for her redress in a custom dress by LayleeM Doll Clothes (a link to Laylee's Etsy shop is included in the references).  I had recently seen another one of Laylee's creations using the same waxed African fabric used for Tamra's dress and I commissioned her to make a dress for Tamra.


Tamra's dress was fashioned after the one shown above.  My only additional request was that the dress would have a side slit and a coordinating headwrap.

Laylee captured the perfect essence of the suggested dress style.

The waxed African fabric includes an image of an African woman who carries a basket on her head and wears a dress made from the same fabric.  Laylee also made a clutch for Tamra to hold.

The clutch has a flap-over closure and a looped rope handle for ease of carrying.
Tamra shows off her side slit.  She wears a pair of black strappy high-heels.

The back of her headwrap and a back slit are seen here.

Close-up of the headwrap

Profile view of the headwrap
Because Tamra needed jewelry, I made bracelets and a wide choker using gold-tone braid/loc accessories.


Tamra models her new jewelry.

The braid accessories work well as bracelets.

A little improvisation was required to create Tamra's necklace using two of the braid adornments because one would not fit the size of her neck.  I placed one each side of her neck with one overlapping part of the other.

Tamra says, "Black History is American History," and I say, it's 24/7, 365 and sometimes 366 days a year.


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Links:
LayleeM Doll Clothes
Fresh Dolls Review from December 2017
Dr. Lisa's Fresh Dolls

There are countless items to collect and write about. Black dolls chose me.
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Friday, February 14, 2020

Happy Valentine's Day


So in Style Grace and Darren celebrate each other and wish you a Happy Valentine's Day, too.


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There are countless items to collect and write about. Black dolls chose me.
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Thursday, February 13, 2020

Saralee's Sibling

17-inch stuffed-vinyl doll by Ideal presumed to be Saralee's older sibling

After several years' search for a sibling of Ideal Saralee, at least one of them, I am blessed to now own one.  After discovering the existence of Saralee Negro Doll in Myla Perkins' book, Black Dolls an Identification and Value Guide 1820-1991 (1993), a two-year search for Saralee commenced.   My Saralee, seen here, arrived in the late 1990s.

In Judith Izen's Collector's Guide to Ideal Dolls (volumes 1 and 2; 1994 and 1998), the author included illustrations of head sculpts of other dolls that were supposed to be part of Saralee's doll family.  Izen's book indicates that these dolls were never made.  It was later brought to my attention by Gerald Corbin, the owner of an all-vinyl 1950s doll by Ideal, that Saralee's brother was made.  Corbin's doll is shown here and is featured in my second book, Black Dolls a Comprehensive Guide to Celebrating, Collecting, and Experiencing the Passion (2008).   From this information, I knew at least one Saralee sibling had been created, a brother, or an all-vinyl doll dressed by the owner as a boy.

Other collectors are known to own dolls referred to as Saralee's brother; however, their dolls are not all vinyl.  Like Saralee, their dolls have a cloth body and bent baby legs.  Their dolls' head sculpts are clearly different than Saralee's as illustrated in this comparison headshot photo shared by Black Legacy Images of Saralee and a doll identified as her brother.

After seeing baby siblings, I knew at least two versions of Saralee's siblings existed, presumably both boys.

This is one of my doll's first photos upon arrival taken before she was sanitized.

My doll was offered on eBay as "Saralee."  When I viewed the auction and saw pictures of the doll's stuffed-vinyl body and examined the photos of the doll's facial features, which are broader than Saralee's, I knew it was a sibling.  I also knew it was not Saralee because Saralee has a cloth body. Dressed as a girl, I wondered if she was a brother like Gerald Corbin's doll or perhaps actually released as a girl.  Corbin described his doll as measuring "approximately 14 inches."  My doll has a very similar face as his doll and an all-vinyl body but she stands 17 inches tall.  It is possible that Corbin's indication of "approximately 14 inches" is off and that his doll and mine are the same doll.  It is also possible that my doll is a big sister (or big brother).

Because the doll arrived dressed as a girl, I have not changed her gender.  I did, however, have to work with her before I could incorporate her into the doll population.  The doll was quite dirty with a thick musty, mildewy odor.

In preparation for cleaning the body, I removed the dress and the hand-sewn panties which had yellowed with age and were very dirty.

A note was made of the head and back marks which are,
IDEAL DOLL
CS17
(on the neck, and)
IDEAL DOLL
P17
o
(on the upper back)
The head marks are identical to the head marks of the doll identified as Saralee's baby brother.  I do not know the markings of the 14-inch boy owned by Corbin.

Cleaning and Airing Out

I removed and hand-washed her dress and underwear.  Both items were laid flat to air dry.


Baking soda wash

Initially, I used liquid soap to wash the doll's entire body (without immersing it in water).  That did not remove the stench.  I created a paste using baking soda and water and applied this all over the doll.  This was left on for 24 hours before rinsing off.

Close-up of baking soda wash

After the baking soda was washed off, Saralee's sibling was laid supine near an open window.

Since fresh air and sunlight work well together to remove odors, instead of taking the doll outside, I opened a window and placed her on a sunlit windowsill for a few hours after washing off the baking soda.


I decided she needed direct sunlight and more fresh air exposure.  So I tied a piece of string around the doll's neck, fastened the end of the string to a wire clothes hanger, and hung the doll outside for a week to 10 days, bringing her in each evening.  (A quicker fix to remove the smell completely would have been to remove her head and the original stuffing and restuff her.  I might still do this.)

With the smell finally faded enough that I can only sense a hint of it if I hold the doll close to my nose, I redressed her in her clean undies and dress as illustrated next.



Her undies are still yellow, but they are clean.  It could also be that the fabric was originally yellow.
As illustrated in the full-length photos in this post, the doll arrived with bare feet.  I found a pair of burgundy Mary-Jane-style shoes that fit her chubby feet, but she needed socks.

A white knit headband was used to make Saralee's sister a pair of socks.


I used my headband-sock-making method to make a pair of socks for this girl.  See "headband socks" link under Related References.


Wearing her clean dress and undies, new socks and shoes, here she poses all cleaned up.

Saralee's Sister (Kaavia) and Saralee

Saralee's sister posed for a couple of final photos with the original Saralee Negro Doll by Ideal, who was once thought to be the only Saralee doll produced by Ideal.

Their subtle facial differences and their different complexions are noticeable in this close-up.  Both have brown sleep eyes and upper eyelashes.  Their noses are shaped similarly.  Both have open/closed mouths with molded tongues.  The original doll's bottom lip is wider.  Their eyebrows and hairlines are shaped differently.
The original Saralee is marked on the head only:

C17
IDEAL DOLL


Related Links
Ideal's Saralee Negro Doll
Headband Socks

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There are countless items to collect and write about. Black dolls chose me.
__________

Thank you for following, commenting, and sharing using the share button below.

Check out what I am selling here
Check out my eBay listings here.
Please follow my sister blog Ebony-Essence of Dolls in Black.
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