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Bisque doll 'Elizabeth'

Catalogue record

Place of Creation: Germany

Date of creation : c1900

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Format : Toy

Donated by Barbara Mellor

Sprayed bisque doll with long dark blonde wig, original long brown and cream gingham check dress and undergarments, white knitted socks and white shoes. "Armand Marseille, Germany, 390".

The story of this doll is a clear demonstration of a child's play agency and intimacy with a toy.  The donor's father was a doctor, and we could say the donor role-played by 'operating' on her dolls after deciding on a specific diagnosis.  Several generations of children within the family played with this heirloom toy and there is even a couture element with dress and outfit design for the doll.
The hair is the ultimate toy intimacy and indeed occurred at a time of WW2 austerity where everything was used, here to astonishing effect. In 1944, when the donor was aged 16 she had her hair cut short as an act of independence and it was reused to make the doll's wig.

When we first met the donor, she told us the following about her experience with the doll:
'Big Sleepy' or formally 'Elizabeth' [was]… My mother's doll probably given to her by her Aunt - Mrs Laura Beyer when she was 6 or 7 years old. Mother was born in 1900 so Elizabeth is probably 107 years old. Her shoes, socks, skirt and jacket are original. Her hair is a wig made from my hair, which was cut off in 1944 [donor was aged 16 at the time]. Mother (Mrs Alexa Cowling) made her some beautiful clothes:- a blue silk dress with an attached rosette of lace with blue ribbons attached. Also a pretty flower patterned Liberty dress, a pair of suede cream gloves, a pair of bloomers and bonnet to match the blue silk dress and a straw hat. I played with her constantly together with 'Little Sleepy', and Mavis, a celluloid Mama doll. (I operated on her - she had her appendix removed and a lump on her brain, she was covered in bandaids). Fay a fabric doll, 'The Twins', 2 small sleeping dolls, 2 Teddy bears - a very small one and a regular size.
Donor statement provided 7th May 2013

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