In the early part of the 20th century, the daughter of cartoonist and author Johnny Gruelle (1880–1938), brought him a faceless rag doll she found in the attic. The doll is thought to have belonged to her grandmother (source). After he drew a face on it, Gruelle christened the doll Raggedy Ann.
In 1915, Gruelle patented the doll (see pic at left) and, 2 years later, published the first of many Raggedy Ann (and later, Raggedy Andy) stories.
While many famous and not-so famous Americans have loved the Raggedy Ann/Andy dolls (Caroline Kennedy apparently had quite a large Raggedy Ann/Andy doll), I never had one.If truth be told, for some reason I always found Raggedy Ann/Andy dolls creepy and refused to even touch them. (So it should be no surprise to anyone that I never made one for my daughter or grandchildren!)
In contrast, I find these dolls – creations of a young woman named Sam Fitzgibbon – attention worthy! “Rag dolls” is most definitely not apropos for these dolls; they are “soft sculptured dolls”
Delightfully, some of the dolls come with various accessories, including doll-sized knitting, embroidery bags, maps and books!
These soft sculptured dolls are the opposite of the mindless, mass produced rag dolls that usually grace a child’s bookshelf. (Sorry, Raggedy Ann/Andy.) Rather, each of Sam’s soft sculptured dolls is a work of art, thoughtfully made and with great attention to detail.
If you happen to be in the Willamette Valley on Friday, September 11, take advantage of Springfrield’s “2nd Friday Artwalk” in its historic downtown and see some of these soft sculptured ladies on display at L’Etoffe Fabrics.
I’m sure the originally Raggedy Ann doll was unique – certainly hand made (and probably lovingly) for a child before the turn of the 20th century, even before receiving her hand-drawn face. Just as rag dolls have comforted children through the millenia, after Marcella died very young, her grieving father kept Raggedy Ann close by.