Welcome to the latest edition of the Beneath the Alders e-newsletter--a newsletter mostly about the life and times covered by the Beneath the Alders series, the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

This newsletter is inspired by the Academy Award nominated movie Barbie. I found the movie extremely clever, funny, and nostalgic. It opens with a description of the dolls that little girls played with before Barbie.


Ask Colleen - Dolls of the Early 20th Century

It made me think about the doll my great aunt Jessie would have played with as a young girl. Her name was Susie. If you have no recollection of reading about her in any of the Beneath the Alders books, you would not be alone. She isn’t there.

As an old woman, Jessie was asked about her favourite childhood toys. She named three: a doll named Susie, a bat and a ball. I love the fact that a bat and a ball figured as prominently in her favourite toys as a doll.

What would that doll have looked like? What would it have been made of? What dolls were girls playing with in the early 1900s? In this article, based on her research, Colleen forms an educated guess.

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A History of the Colour Pink

Would Jessie’s doll have been festooned in pink? The colour which is the favourite of so many young girls and women today (including my twenty-something daughter Elexa) was not associated with baby girls back then, as can be seen in this article about the history of the colour pink.

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Jessie’s Pink Party Dress

In The Mending Jessie and her friends attend a high school Valentine’s Day dance in the newly built Brampton High School. Jessie’s friend Jane appears in a sack-like dress, surreptitiously covering a later-to-be-revealed sheik flapper-style dress. Jessie wears a frothy pink chiffon concoction, replete with a bow at the sash, her only party dress. Was that colour true to the 1920s? Read this article about what young society women wore to soirees of the time.

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Special Surgeries

Barbie was released by Mattel in 1959, two years before I was born. I certainly remember having a Barbie as a child. I remember the clothes that my mother sewed for her with remnants of fabric she used to sew clothes for herself and me. I remember the clothes my aunt Doris knit for her.

But my favourite doll was not a slim, “perfectly” proportioned, grown woman plastic doll but a baby doll about the size of a five pound bag of flour. She couldn’t ride a bicycle or perform open heart surgery, but she could tell secrets. I loved her! One day she was attacked by someone I loved and then rescued by two others I loved. It all happened in Muskoka as you can read in this article.

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