Born in 1914, Dare Wright spent her early childhood with her mother, famed portrait artist Edith (Edie) Stevenson Wright. Edie treated Dare like a companion and the pair often created imaginary worlds through reading, writing, drawing, carpentry, and sewing. Dare loved to read Robin Hood, Grimms’ fairy tales, and The Lovely Garden, and she spent countless hours occupied by her dolls. Following Dare’s enrollment at Laurel boarding school in the fourth grade, Edith purchased Dare a 22-inch-tall Lenci doll on […]
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I’m always on the lookout for play in everyday social media trends and breaking news headlines. When these spaces intersect, great examples emerge and illustrate the complex meaning and cultural function of play and playthings in our daily lives.
Take as example: protesting crowds gathered following the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2022 ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which upended decades of legal protections for abortion established in Roe v. Wade (1973). Among the protest signs outside the Supreme […]
Every year, The Strong receives thousands of nominations for toys that people believe—or, more accurately, KNOW—should be inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame. Most years, the number of nominations hovers in the 4,000–6,000 range. But in 2021, more than 55,000 nominations poured into the museum. Was it just that people working from home with fewer outlets for their attention found themselves with more time to advocate for their favorite toys and games? Maybe. But ever since The Strong […]
Following a visit to historic Williamsburg, Virginia, and a Christmas shopping trip for her nieces, educator and newscaster Pleasant Rowland pondered, “Here I am, in a generation of women at the forefront of redefining women’s roles, and yet our daughters are playing with dolls that celebrate being a teen queen or mommy.” Rowland spent a weekend creating a concept intended to redefine how girls interacted with their playthings, and in 1986, she launched a new line of 18-inch dolls—American Girl […]
Often written off as charming novelties of childhood, paper dolls can serve as powerful indicators of the drastic sociopolitical changes occurring in the early 20th century. Like many toys, they reflect the cultural values of their creators and their consumers, providing insight into the lives of women and children during a tumultuous political era. During my time at The Strong National Museum of Play, I was able to examine a wide variety of paper dolls created between 1900 and 1940 […]
Dressed in her inaugural gown of red, blue, and silver, Barbie made her political debut with a presidential run in 1992. In 2000, Barbie’s bid for president was part of the White House Project, a non-profit organization seeking to increase female representation in American institutions. In the 2004 presidential race, she donned a red power suit. In 2008, she added another run as presidential candidate to her storied resume. In 2012, Barbie sought to inspire girls. In 2016, […]
“Barbie quite simply changed my life.”
Many of us can say that, in one way or another, our experiences playing with Barbie had lasting effects on our lives. For me Barbie provided a venue for my daydreaming and storytelling. For others Barbie might have been more of a double-edged sword: inspiration that came exclusively in hourglass measurements. Carol Spencer’s life, however, would not have been the same in any way without Barbie.
Spencer grew up making paper clothes for her paper dolls […]
Born in 1895, Bertha (Beatrice) Alexander Behrman grew up living above her stepfather’s doll hospital at 405 Grand Street on New York’s Lower East Side. Dolls at that time were made of china and broke easily, so her family kept busy repairing dolls for wealthy clients. Beatrice worked in the shop and, at the age of 11, realized that she wanted to live like their customers. Reflecting later on that determination, she noted, “I wanted to have a […]
It all began following the 1965 Watts Riots in Los Angeles, California. Louis S. Smith, II and Robert Hall worked with civil rights activists and community members to form Operation Bootstrap, a cooperative that sought to rebuild the community and provide jobs for its residents. Operation Bootstrap’s neighbor, Mattel, was impressed by its success. In 1968, Smith and Hall met with Mattel leadership. The makers of Barbie wanted to support Bootstrap’s initiative and offered to back a toy […]