Paper Dolls

Those of you who have read The Blistering Morning Mist might remember the story about my mother’s paper dolls, the ones I didn’t want to be divided. They still exist, undivided, after almost 100 years. The other day I was searching for something in a storage box of her things and came across them.

This box may well be over 100 years–it wasn’t new when she was given it to keep her paper dolls in.
Note my mother’s name inside the box lid. She must have wanted to be sure her paper dolls didn’t get mixed up with those of her sisters.

Glancing quickly through them, I was amused by how different her paper dolls were from the world she lived in. She was surrounded by women wearing subdued cape dresses and men in dark plain suits. Her clothes had no lace or frills, and her hair was straight and uncut.

My mother is the first child from the left on the front row. She appears to have a ribbon in her hair, and her dress is trimmed with dark edging. She is next to her cousin Elsie and next to Elsie are Esther and Dot. My grandfather is second from the right holding his son, Bob, and my grandmother is to his right (our left) with black covering strings hanging down the front of her cape dress.

Not so with her paper dolls, cut from Sears and Roebuck catalogs, which of course didn’t conform to Mennonite dress codes. There were more dresses than I photographed, among them a preponderance of fur-collared coats.

The little girls did not fare as well in terms of quantities of clothes.
Nor did the boys.
There seem to be many more people than clothes. Some of them may never have changed clothes because they have no pin marks indicating that they would have had other outfits pinned to them.

My mother’s interest must have shown up early. At the bottom of the box was this typewriter. She spent many years of her life at typewriters, writing long, interesting letters, typing term papers for others, and teaching typing to hundreds of high school students, including me.

The only difference is that she had a Royal typewriter.

I wanted to ask my mother all kinds of questions as I looked at the dolls and their clothes. Who were the members of her paper doll family? Did she wish she could dress like they did as she chose their clothes and cut them out? What was the pretend world she created for them? Does she remember how upset I got over dividing them? If so, what was going on in her mind as she put them away? None of those questions can be answered now, so I’ll continue to guess and to wonder.

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  1. Dorothy Jean Weaver on January 15, 2022 at 1:57 pm

    Amazing! I don’t think I have ever seen these paper dollsl I wish so much that we had Mom around to answer all your questions. Thanks so much!

    • kathiekurtz on January 15, 2022 at 3:13 pm

      You’re welcome. I can show you the dolls sometime. I hadn’t remembered where they were, but now I know.

  2. Eunice Wenger on January 15, 2022 at 2:39 pm

    The look on grandma Myra’s face is one of mischief and fun. That’s the part I liked the most.

    We kept our Sears and Ro. catalog cut out paper dolls families in old hosiery box.

  3. kathiekurtz on January 15, 2022 at 3:12 pm

    Yes, she could be very fun-loving. She may have dressed plainly, but she was in no way straight-laced.

  4. Donna Burkhart on January 15, 2022 at 8:26 pm

    Miriam cut each piece with the carefully, loving precision with which she did everything—-especially caring for her daughters.

  5. kathiekurtz on January 15, 2022 at 10:44 pm

    Yes, I thought about it as I was sorting and organizing that Mother had cut out each of these. It would have been fun to watch her choosing and cutting process and listen to the conversations that went on with her sisters as they were no doubt choosing and cutting too.

  6. willowoak520 on January 17, 2022 at 8:03 pm

    Having read your story, I loved seeing the dolls with their fashionable clothing. I rather like some of those dresses myself, though I probably don’t have the figure those were intended for!

  7. kathiekurtz on January 17, 2022 at 11:12 pm

    Me either–those slender-waisted dresses! Yes, I like the dresses too and they make me wonder whether Mother wished as much as I did as a child to wear more fancy dresses.

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