I have loved dolls, history, and the Victorian Era since I was little and can credit my grandmother for that. As a young girl she gave me a Godey’s Fashion print for August 1870 from my great, great Aunt Flossie. I was captivated by the dresses and became hooked. I just love to research everything and anything about the Victorian Era. I also love to design Victorian dolls. I hope you enjoy my Victorian Dolls, Victorian Traditions,The Victorian Era, and Me blog.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Grandma, Will You Read Me A Story?

Don't you just love this quote from Dr. Seuss:

The more that you read,
the more things you will know.
The more that you learn,
the more places you'll go.
~ Dr. Seuss ~

A verse so simple yet so very true. Children learn to read from their parents or as Emilie Buchwald said in 1994, "Children are made readers on the laps of their parents." So, it is vitally important for parents to read to their children from infancy. The more children read, the better they become at reading. And, the more young children are read to, the greater their interest in reading. Reading out loud to children helps them with their verbal skills, enhances their development and teaches them how to express themselves verbally.

Other people have also stated this so eloquently:

Books, to the reading child, are so much more than books -- they
are dreams and knowledge, they are a future, and a past.(1940)
~ Esther Meynell ~

There is no substitute for books in the life of a child. (1952)
~ Mary Ellen Chase ~

It is not enough to simply teach children to read;
we have to give them something worth reading.
Something that will stretch their imaginations-
something that will help them make sense of their own
lives and encourage them to reach out toward people
whose lives are quite different from their own.
~ Katherine Paterson ~

If you've been a reader of my Linda's Blog you know that I've had a long term love affair with dolls, doll patterns, the Victorian era, floral design, and genealogy. You also know that I love research and history. What you don't know until now is that I have always LOVED books and reading, too. As far as I'm concerned you can never have enough dolls and you can never have enough books.

My house is filled with them. Books of all kinds. My love affair with books began very early on. My Mother is an avid reader, my Father was an avid reader, my Grandmother and Great-Aunt were avid readers, and so it was passed down to my siblings and I.

I can remember sitting in my Grandmother's rocking chair (which I still have) and having her read me a story. Sometimes we would sit there while she was watching her soap opera's and then she would read me my story. I never minded just sitting there with her. I always knew there would be a story. And, I always felt safe in her arms.

Now, when I read I think about sitting with my Grandmother or listening to my Mom and Dad talk about their love of reading and it brings back warm and pleasant feelings for me.

Reading is such an escape. You can literally get lost in a book. The book for a brief moment becomes your life and you can imagine that you're experiencing it. There is nothing more powerful then your imagination. Even the most spectacular movie with all its wonderful special effects and cinematography cannot compare to what you own imagination can create. There are no limits, no boundaries to your imagination when you are reading. Reading can take you anywhere. If you know how to read you can do anything because there isn't anything you can't do if you put your mind to it.

I am a firm believer in books and reading as a way of teaching children. And it must be taught at a very young age, on the laps of our parents, as the graphic above nicely conveys. As Mccosh quoted, "The book to read is not the one which thinks for you, but the one which makes you think."

In fact, my Grandchildren can attest to the fact that every Christmas or Birthday they know what at least one of their presents will be from their Grandmother: books. To me, that is one of the best presents I could give them. By giving them books all the time, I hope somehow I'm conveying a love of reading to them. Reinforcing the value of reading time and time again. Making them think. Hopefully, by developing good reading skills they learn how to think for themselves.

For I firmly believe in the following quote:

To read is to empower
To empower is to write
To write is to influence
To Influence is to change
To change is to live.
~ Jane Evershed ~
More than a Tea Party

In fact, I was watching a show on one of the cable channels about the greatest invention mankind has ever seen. They counted down through hundreds of inventions until they got to #1. Do you know what it was? The greatest invention mankind has ever seen was the invention of the printing press. Why, because it opened the whole world up to everyone and mankind was never the same again.

So, grab a book. Take it to a quiet place and get lost in your own imagination. And the next time your Grandchildren come to visit spend the weekend reading to them, not watching T.V. or playing video games. Just reading from books. Your Grandchildren may surprise you and love it. And, you will open up a magical world to them from which they will never return.

I did it!
Come and look
At what I've done!
I read a book!
When someone wrote it
Long ago
For me to read,
How did he know
That this was the book
I'd take from the shelf
And lie on the floor
And read by myself?
I really read it!
Just like that!
Word by word,
From first to last!
I'm sleeping with
This book in bed,
This first FIRST book
I've ever read!
~ David L. Harrison ~
(from Somebody Catch My Homework)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Let's Play Dress-Up!

"What do you want to do?" "I don't know. What do you want to do?" "Hey, I know. Let's play dress-up." "Yeah! Let's play dress-up." "I'll be mommy." "No, I want to be mommy." "Mom, Linda won't let me be you." "Linda, let your sister be me."

I can remember playing "dress-up" as a child. Can't you? What girl hasn't played "dress-up" once in her life? It's one of the most delightful escapes that "little girls" can have.

I loved putting on my Mother's clothes and imagining that I was her. Playing dress-up for a day. Every little girl does it. Whether you imagine being your Mother, or a famous movie star, or someone else. It doesn't matter. What matters is the delightful childhood fantasy. The pure enjoyment of living in your imagination for the briefest of times. Playing dress-up. Make believe. Making yourself into a beautiful doll.

Is it any wonder then that I love and design dolls for. Designing is the ultimate "dress-up" as the dolls can be anything I want them to be. Frilly, frumpy, beautiful, ugly, Victorian, and modern. Classy, regal, elegant, refined. Anything at all. I can play "dress-up" any time I want. I guess you could say that I just never grew up.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Ghosts, Goblins, and Witches, Oh My!

Well there's only 20 days to go until Halloween, or what's formerly known as "All Hallows Eve." Halloween has also become a favorite of doll makers and crafters because there are so many different types of dolls, doll patterns and crafts that you can make for this one holiday. Ghosts, goblins, and witches. Oh my! Frankensteins, Dracula, and vampires. Oh,my! Bats, pumpkins, and skulls. Oh my! Skeletons, monsters, and witches brew. Oh,my! Candy corn, costumes, and haunted houses. Oh my! What a wondrous holiday for crafting.

But, where did this and why did this all start? The answer lies in the true origins of Halloween and the ancient Celtic tribes who lived in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Brittany. November 1st for the Celts marked the beginning of a new year and the coming of winter. So the night before the new year the Celts celebrated the Festival of Samhain, who was the Lord of the Dead. The Celts believed that during this festival the souls of the dead (including ghosts, goblins, and witches, oh my!) returned to mingle with the living.

In the Druidic, religion of the ancient Celts, the Druids would light fires and offer sacrifices of crops, animals and sometimes humans, as they danced around the fires. The season of the sun would pass and the season of darkness would begin, oh my! On the morning of November 1st, the Druids would give an ember from their fires to each family who would then take it home to start a new cooking fire. The fires were intended to keep the homes warm and free of evil spirits such as banshees, oh my! It was believed that at this time of the year invisible "gates" would open between the real world and the spirit world, oh my! Movement between both worlds was possible, oh my!

In order to scare away the evil spirits the Celts would wear masks and the children would wear costumes. Halloween costumes have traditionally been monsters such as vampires, ghosts, witches, and devils, oh my! Why? In 19Th century Scotland and Ireland the reason the children wore such fearsome costumes was the belief that since the spirits of the dead were intent on doing harm that night, the best way to avoid this was to fool the dead spirits into thinking you were one of them. Monsters, vampires, and skeletons, oh my!

So, we know the reason for the costumes. Why carve pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns? Scary faces on pumpkins to boot, oh my! Why do we put candles in them and set them on the porch, oh my? This tradition is also derived from ancient celebrations and actually began with a turnip. The Celts would hollow out the turnips and place lighted candles inside to scare off the evil spirits. When the Irish came to America, they discovered that the pumpkin was a much larger substitute for the turnip. If it's larger, it's scarier. If it's scarier it will ward off evil spirits.

But, why are they called jack-o-lanterns? It all started with an Irishman (of course) named Jack who was forced to roam the earth with just a burning coal inside his pumpkin to light the way for him. He had to roam the earth forever because he had never performed a single selfless act his whole life, oh my!

But, why the door-to-door trick-or-treating you ask? Once, again we go back to Ireland where there was a custom of farmers going door-to-door to collect food and materials for the Festival of Samhain and the bonfire. Those who gave were promised prosperity; those who didn't received bad luck, oh my! When the Irish immigrants came to America the door-to-door trick-or-treating came with them and thus the traditions began.

So, once again crafters and doll makers have tradition and folklore to credit for a slew of wondrous crafts and dolls to make for Halloween, oh my! It's one of my favorite times of the year and I have made many, many of all these different figures over the years and have designed several witches, ghosts, and Frankenstein's.

So, enjoy the trick-or-treating, but don't forget that evil spirits are roaming about on "All Hallows Eve." You might see ghosts, goblins, and witches. Oh my! Frankensteins, Dracula, and vampires. Oh my! Bats, pumpkins, and skulls. Oh my! Skeletons, monsters, and witches brew. Oh my! Candy corn, costumes, and haunted houses. Oh my! What a wondrous day to be alive!

Monday, October 10, 2005

A Teddy Bear As A Scarecrow!

You can't be a doll designer or doll pattern designer and not have one, two, three, four or more scarecrow dolls. They can be primitive, classic, scary, well-dressed, tattered, large or small bodied, cheerful, scary, etc. It doesn't matter. They're a staple of every crafter. Why is that? Why are we so enthralled with them? I'm not sure, but I'd like to find out.

That got to me thinking about scarecrows and their history. Oh, boy! Another research project. For all my blog readers you know how I HATE research projects!

The definition of a scarecrow is 1) an object for scaring birds away (i.e. an object in the shape of a person dressed in old clothes, set up in a field to scare birds away), 2) a poorly dressed person (i.e. somebody who wears ragged clothes) , and 3) something frightening, but not dangerous.

They say that farmers have been making scarecrows for more than 3,000 years with the earliest know written fact being written in 1592. In the 1700's the farmers in the American colonies needed more and more grain. The farmers decided that neither they nor the scarecrows were sufficiently protecting the crops so the towns started to offer bounties for dead crows. Well, things went too far (which is what usually happens) and so many crows were killed that in the 1800's the colonies had a severe problem with an over population of worms and insects that had previously been eaten by the crows. The worms and insects were destroying more crops than the crows had (that figures). So the farmers took to making scarecrows again.

While they have traditionally been known as scarecrows they have had several names and have taken on several forms. In Pennsylvania the German farmers built human looking scarecrows called "bootzamon" or bogeyman. The "Bootzamon's" body was a wooden cross and his head was a broom, mop top, or piece of cloth stuffed with straw. He usually wore old overalls, shirt, straw hat, and red handkerchief around his neck. Sometimes more than one was built (everybody needs a little company, even scarecrows). The German farmers even had a "bootzafrau" or bogeywife. After all, every scarecrow needs a partner, don't they? The "bootzafrau" was usually dressed in a long dress or coat, wearing a hat or sunbonnet, and was placed in the opposite end of the field. So, you had a "bootzamon" on one end and a "bootzafrau" on the other end. Wonder which one really wore the pants in that family!

During the Middle Ages the German farmers made wooden witches and put them in the fields at the end of the winter. They believed that the witches would draw the evil spirit of winter into their bodies (which is why they were so ugly) so spring would come.

In Egypt, scarecrows were used to protect the fields along the Nile River from quail. The farmers would put wooden frames up with nets and would hide in the fields to scare the quail in to the nets. Once captured they, of course, would take them home and eat them.

They say that in Greece 2,500 years ago that wooden scarecrows were made to look like Priapus, the son of the god Dionysus and the goddess Aphrodite. According to legend Priapus lived with vineyard keepers and was very ugly. When he played in the fields he was so ugly the birds were frightened away. Maybe it's me, but if Priapus was the son of Aphrodite (wasn't she the goddess of love and beauty) I would think the crows would have flocked to him.

Japanese farmers hung old rags, meat, fish bones, etc. from bamboo poles in their rice fields. They named their scarecrows "kakashis" which means smells badly because they would set the sticks on fire and the smell was so bad that it drove the birds away. Of course, it probably drove the neighbors away, but that's a different story.

In Medieval Britain the scarecrows known as "bird shooers" were live boys 9 years old or older. I bet you're thinking I'm going to tell you that they were tied to the wooden crosses and hung in the fields. The young boys patrolled the fields carrying bags of stones which they would throw at the birds to chase them away. After the Great Plague in 1348, when approximately half the population was killed, the farmers started to stuff sacks with straw and hung these in the fields as there were not enough little boys around to scare the birds away. They would stuff the sacks with straw and make carved heads out of gourds.

Most of the Native American Indian scarecrows were adult men. They would sit on raised platforms and would howl and shout at the crows if they came near the corn. Creek Indian families actually moved into huts within the corn fields during the growing season to protect the crops from birds and other prey. In New York, the Seneca Indians soaked their corn seeds in a poisonous herb mixture that would make the crows fly around like crazy and scare the other birds away. It's been reported that one of the scarecrows used by the Navajo took the form of a teddy bear, which was hung from the top of a pole. That's a new one for me. A teddy bear as a scarecrow. You'd think the crows would want to cuddle the bear not fly away from it. Could be a new doll line. Hmmm.

In any event, the scarecrow has clearly been around a very long time and clearly has taken many forms. Whether you believe in the tradition or not scarecrows are loved by artists, crafters, writers, and children the world over. For doll designers and crafters we just can't have enough of them. I know, I can't.

For crafters it really doesn't matter whether you are a crafter of primitive crafts, Victorian crafts, country crafts, etc. No matter what type of crafter or designer you are we all still have one thing in common: we are all still in love with scarecrows. I know I am and I suspect you are as well.

Saturday, October 1, 2005

How Can I Be A Feminist Victorian???

I have to wonder sometimes why I have such a fascination or passion for the fashions of the Victorian Era when I am clearly a feminist (the ultimate feminist according to my son-in-law).

My inner self seems to be fighting with itself. Women's rights versus love of a time when women had, basically, no rights, but, wore the most beautiful dresses.

So, I thought that maybe I should investigate this further. What is it that draws me to the era when it is so contrary to my basic beliefs.

According to the American Heritage Dictionary feminism is "a doctrine that advocates or demands for women the same rights granted to men, as in political or economic status."

Feminists clearly believe in this, so therefore I clearly am a feminist (and PROUD of it to boot). In fact, make that VERY PROUD.

According to the American Heritage Dictionary a Victorian is defined as "Pertaining or belonging to the period of Queen Victoria's reign. Exhibiting qualities usually associated with the time of Queen Victoria, as moral severity or hypocrisy, middle-class stuffiness, and pompous conservationism. A person belonging to or exhibiting characteristics typical of the period of Queen Victoria."

Clearly, I am not Victorian.

Clearly, their attitudes towards women and society is for the BIRDS (maybe they don't even want to be associated with it).

Yet, I am drawn to their fashions. Drawn to their style. Why?

Why do I love to make Victorian dolls when I clearly am not Victorian? I am as perplexed as you are.

Perhaps, I should explore this further and delve a little more into the rights of women during the Victorian Era.

Maybe if I get so disgusted with their lack of rights I'll stop loving the Victorian Era and Victorian Fashion.

Maybe, I'll stop designing Victorian dolls? Maybe, I'll stop designing dolls all together. Maybe, I'll stop loving dolls. Maybe, I'll stop loving history and genealogy.

Maybe, I'll turn into a Victorian and start to believe their treatment of women was right. Yeah! Right!

In your dreams Queen Victoria!

You've Got To Be Kidding!

If you're been reading my Linda's Blog for awhile then you know I love history, research, and that I'm a big advocate for women's rights. You also know that I love the Victorian period and love to design Victorian dolls.

So, I decided to do a little research on Women's Rights (or I should say lack of women's rights) in the Victorian Era and my fascination for that period. I quickly came to the conclusion that while I love the fashions of the Victorian period, I clearly could never have been a Victorian woman and here's why.

The following excerpts were taken from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. "The Victorian Era (1837 to 1901) symbolized by the reign of British monarch Queen Victoria was a very difficult period for women, because of the vision of the "ideal women" shared by most in the society."

"The legal rights of married women were similar to those of children. They could not vote or sue or even own property. Also, they were seen as pure and clean. Because of this view, their bodies were seen as temples which should not be adorned with makeup nor should they be used for such pleasurable things as sex. The role of women was to have children and tend to the house. They could not hold jobs unless they were those of a teacher nor were they allowed to have their own checking accounts or savings accounts. In the end, they were to be treated as saints, but saints that had no legal rights. "

Does this sound like "women should be barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen" or what? I can't see a modern day woman wanting to tolerate that. No voting, no suing, no property. Must remain pure and clean in body and soul. I don't think so.

"In the Victorian Era the law regarded a married couple as one person. The husband was responsible for his wife and bound by law to protect her. She was supposed to obey him and he had the right to enforce this. The personal property the wife brought into the marriage was then owned by the husband, even in case of a divorce. The income of the wife belonged completely to her husband and the custody of children belonged to the father as well. He was able to refuse any contact between the mother and her children. The wife was not able to conclude a contract on her own. She needed her husband’s agreement. In addition, the married woman could not be punished for certain offences, such as theft or burglary if she acted under the command of her husband. It was impossible to charge the wife for concealing her husband and for stealing from her husband as they were one person in law. "

I can't possibly imagine that any female in her right mind would think that this made sense. Is it any wonder that they wrote "obey" out of the marriage vows of today? Personal property of the wife became the husband's. Can you imagine a husband saying to his wife "What's mine is mine and what's yours is mine, too." And, the wife saying, "Yes, of course, dear!"

During this time women had no legal say in how many children they would have nor would they get custody of children if the marriage ended in divorce. You have to say to yourself, "Were they out of their minds!" No say in how many children you're going to have? I just shake my head.

"A very special connection existed between women and their brothers. Sisters had to treat their brothers as they would treat their future husbands. They were dependent on their male family members as the brother’s affection might secure their future in case their husband treated them badly or they did not get married at all. "

The Victorian men had the Victorian women trapped. If you didn't get married, basically, your brother owned you. If you did get married then your husband owned you.

At that time educated women working in academic jobs were considered abnormal and monstrous. ABNORMAL and MONSTROUS! I bet all the women professors of today would just love to hear this. The only jobs open to women were governess, servant, teacher at boarding school, nurse or author.

"The attitude towards women and education was that education of women needn't be the same as that of men. Women were supposed to know the things necessary to bring up their children and to keep house. That’s why subjects as history, geography and general literature were of extreme importance, whereas Latin and Greek were of little importance. Woman who wanted to study something like law, physics, engineering, science or art were satirized and dismissed. People thought that it was unnecessary for women to go to a university. It was even said that studying was against their nature and that it could make them ill. They should stay more or less an “Ornament of Society” and be subordinate to their husbands. Obedience was the only requirement. "

Studying was against their nature and could make them ill. I MUST be very sick then. Ornament of society - NEVER. No wonder the women revolted. No wonder the feminist movement was born out of this period?

But, best of all Victorian women had to be SUBORDINATE to their husbands. All I can say to that is, "You've got to be kidding! My husband would hate that."