Meet Susan and Teddy.
It’s funny the things that survive sixty years. Teddy looks chewed because he was chewed, especially that nice sawdust-filled nose, and his ear has fallen off several times. Susan is a wetting doll, which seems a particularly perverse thing to give a child. You’d squirt water into her mouth and it would instantly come out a hole at the other end.
In fact, Susan wasn’t even my favourite doll. That honour went to Debbie, who was made of a type of china, with closing eyes with eyelashes, and Jenny who was an early transgender doll whose head could be pulled off to transform her into Peter (what Anglo names!) She/he was made of a rather unfortunate orange rubber. I still have Peter’s head somewhere but the body seems to have gone missing.
As has Sindy, the British version of Barbie. I never liked Barbie with her pointy boobs and mutilated feet. I saved up for Sindy myself over a year – a whole $7.99 – but tragically her head fell off. (There is a bit of a theme here- what is it about heads detaching themselves??) My cousin Wayne took her to the doll hospital because he worked in the city, and she came back with a rod stuck up her neck giving the distinct appearance of goitre. She had auburn hair, and I think I even had the houndstooth skirt set worn by blonde Sindy here. I can remember being fascinated by the word “houndstooth”.
So why am I indulging in all this nostalgia? Well, the State Library of Victoria has a fascinating post about Elizabeth Batman’s doll, which it holds as part of their collection. John Batman moved to Port Phillip with his family, including six-to-seven year old Elizabeth, in 1836. He died three years later, leaving a complex will that ended up in the courts for years, splitting the family.
Anyway, have a look at Elizabeth Batman’s dolly and her clothes, which although fragile, prefigure Sindy and Barbie by some 125 years. You’ll find the post here.