One of Daisy’s favorite toys of ALL TIME is a set of Lennon Sisters Paper Dolls that my friend Dawn gave her for Christmas when Daisy was 6. Some weekend mornings, Daisy will wake up early and I’ll find her in her room, happily cutting out elegant dresses or winter ski jackets and inventing stories for the four girls. She doesn’t know who they are. And again, they are not licensed to the hilt. And their clothing is always appropriate. Sometimes I blow bubbles at her while she plays with them, though she doesn’t know why and gets annoyed if they get on the paper (you’ll WRECK the, mom). It’s just all so sweet and incongruous it cracks me up.
So what a thrill it was, after I mentioned the dolls in a post I wrote for Motherlode to hear from the Sisters’ publicist. She wanted to tell me about the Best Pals dolls that Kathy and Janet have created. They’re rag dolls that are exact replicas of the dolls they had and loved as children.
Give it a second. It takes awhile to adjust to something so sweet and basic, a doll that looks childlike. They remind me a little like Laura and Mary Ingalls. What’s notable is that they exist to be girls’ friend–a companion doll–not as a tool to teach girls to fuse femininity with constant consumption, materialism, “sassiness” or focus on appearance. Because in 1949, that was the dominant role of dolls–to be a girl’s “best pal.”It seems that is more of the stuffed animal today.
There is also a line of multi-cultural best pals (in the first version of this post I hadn’t realized). One of them, Isabelle, was named after the Lennon Sisters’ grandmother (who was Latina).
There’s also Lily:
The Lennon Sisters themselves were the four oldest in a family of TWELVE kids. They worked hard to help support their family, honed their talents and did well. And yeah, maybe they were square but they were the only act I enjoyed when I’d watch “Lawrence Welk” with my grandma (who gave my Minnesota homegirls The Andrews Sisters an early break–had a signed photo from them that said so-but that’s another story….). Here are the Lovely Lennon Sisters singing the story of “Ferdinand the Bull.”
Also, the Best Pal dolls are what they are. There are two of them. That’s it. There are no “Best Pal” grapes or t-shirts or band-aids or diapers or DVDs. What a relief
One more thing: Notice the colors of the original dolls’ clothing and ribbons. In addition to what I’ve said in the past about pink being originally for boys and blue for girls, my clothing historian guru, Jo Paoleti, has told me that the other classic division was: brown haired children (girls OR boys) were dressed in pink and blonde children in blue. Certainly plays out here…..
And oh, just for the heck of it, here’s a great Andrews Sisters’ vid.
Coda: I just found this fascinating article on the Lennon Sisters, who were the pop “princesses” of their time and were, in fact, merchandised more than any girl since Shirley Temple. Interesting to see, though, how they were protected, how the media declined to cover the scandal and tragedy in their personal lives for the sake of not only their privacy but their “purity.” Back then, though, a girl whose wholesomeness was fetishized didn’t try to “grow up” by objectifying her sexuality. I’m not saying it was BETTER in those days, but today’s pattern isn’t much of an improvement….