“His Story” Paper Doll Collections Focus on Women in History as Pious Wives

Noble Rose Press, a company run by sisters Breezy and Emily Rose Brookshire, offers paper doll books entitled Daughters of His Story. As a former little girl myself and the mother of two daughters who love the concept of creating worlds through the different scenery and attire paper dolls offer, I think this is great. Far too many children have stopped playing in earnest by the age of three or so in lieu of television shows and video games. However, I do have some concerns about the underlining message of this particular line of paper dolls.

From Noble Rose Press’ website:

As young girls, Breezy and Emily Rose enjoyed listening to their mother read aloud for hours, and they especially remember the impact that the stories of courageous and godly women had on them. The stories not only inspired them in biblical femininity, but they also wanted to share these women’s lives with other girls.

In the summer of 2009, God gave their mother an idea: Paper dolls based on historical women that exemplified virtuous womanhood and modest clothing while teaching young girls and their mothers about our rich heritage in the Kingdom of God. Breezy could paint the ladies and their wardrobes, while Emily Rose could design the booklets on the computer.

A friend encouraged them to present the paper dolls to several catalogs. Interest was shown, and with the blessing and wisdom from their father, Breezy and Emily Rose proceeded to plow forward to meet catalog deadlines. God’s provision was seen throughout every detail of creating each booklet, which they hope will be a source of hours of play and inspiration.

So this venture really took off when they had their father’s blessing …  oh, and his wisdom.  That’s significant.

The first paper doll collection focuses on Katharina von Bora (hospitable wife of Martin Luther, the great reformer) and Idelette Calvin (caring wife of John Calvin, the great theologian). I’m sure the fact that von Bora abandoned vows made to the Catholic church to marry Luther (who was 42 to her 26) is not a prime focus, nor is her rather feminist response to Luther’s comments advocating polygamy—“I’d rather go back to the convent and leave you and all our children.”

Abigail Adams, “encouraging wife of our second president, John Adams,” and Sarah Edwards, “diligent wife of Jonathan Edwards the great preacher,” highlight the second collection. You know, I’m a little confused here … Abigail Adams was quite outspoken on women’s rights in areas like education and property ownership considering that she lived from 1744-1818. John Adams was, in fact, most attracted to Abigail’s mind and her knowledge of “inappropriate” readings about philosophy and politics.

The third collection stars Priscilla Mullins (“faithful pilgrim who came to America on the Mayflower and married John Alden”) and Pocahontas (“peacemaking ally of Jamestown who married John Rolfe”). Christianity was forced on Pocahontas while in English captivity, and her rich legacy was lost as she became “Rebecca Rolfe” and the ability to “rightly have a kingdom by her means,” according to John Smith. Ultimately, Pocahontas was little more than a pawn; this “peacemaking” that is referred to has more to do with how the men in her life used her name and circumstances to further their own causes.

I am not a historian, nor do I pretend to be. However, it is doing a great disservice to the memories of these women to boil their lives down to simpering adjectives like caring, hospitable, encouraging, diligent, faithful, and peacemaking without taking into account who they were independent of their husbands. I realize that these women, on the surface, fit into the “good religious wife” mold, hence their inclusion in these paper doll books. However, it is doing a grave disservice to both their memories and to the minds of today’s little girls to imply that this is all that they were.

What are your thoughts on these paper doll collections?

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20 thoughts on ““His Story” Paper Doll Collections Focus on Women in History as Pious Wives

  1. I loved playing with my paper dolls when I was younger. Mine were all women in Victorian dress, and the American Girl dolls. I don’t know if I remember any of them having any messages attached like the dolls in the article.

    I like the idea of highlighting these women with paper dolls, but, like Katie, I’m not sure that the messages behind and descriptions of these women are appropriate. I think the focus should be on the women as individuals, not as the wives of famous husbands.

    • I played with the paper American Girl dolls too! And their stories were downright feminist compared to this. They were always about strong girls and women. Not women who were subservient to their husbands and fathers. That’s not what American Girl was about, at least when I was at that age.

  2. My mom always got me paper doll books when I was little. I think it’s because she played with them when she was little, and her family was so poor that she only had one real barbie doll, which she had to share with her sister. At least with paper dolls she had more than one and could make them interact. I know that’s really sad, but she loved them and I’m glad she gave them to me because I was a really imaginative kid and I loved them too. The only thing I hated was cutting the damn outfits out of the paper. That’s hard when you’re still fine-tuning your fine motor skills. And boring.

    I’m really glad these weren’t around when I was little though, because my mother is also very religious and I know I’d have had to play with them. I can tell from the cover that the art sucks compared to other paper doll collections. The whole reason they’re fun is because of the art and beautiful costumes! I got to play with French Rococo and ’20′s Flapper dresses! Not this namby-pamby apron crap. I also like how they have to be holding food, because they’re women and they belong in the kitchen.

    By the way, buckskin dresses with fringe are NOT what Native American women wore on a regular basis, in any tribe that I’m aware of. Some did wear them for ceremonies and whatnot, but they are a stereotype foisted upon them by photographers during the 19th century. The dress would have been totally impractical for the activities of many Native American women. They wore leggings, for Pete’s sake, like any sane person would. A skirt may or may not be included, depending on the tribe and culture. It would not have been a long skirt (impractical) and most that I have ever seen had slits up the sides so as not to impede leg movement. That doesn’t fit the Christian sensibility and ideal of modesty, however. So this doll is certainly not an accurate representation of Pocohontas. As far as the historical accuracy, I can tell you right now that they raped Native American culture yet again and just copied Disney, but with a more shapeless version of the Disney dress. Not surprising, considering the fact that this is coming from patriarchal white Christians. It’s what they do. They whitewash history quite literally to fit into their ideas of Manifest Destiny. This is simply an extension of what’s been happening in history books for kids since they’ve been written in this country.

  3. You’re overlooking a few things.

    1) Christians aren’t exactly known for their open-mindedness when it comes to the roles of women in the world, so is this really that much of a surprise to you?

    2) Little girls who are of age to play with paper dolls aren’t going to care about or grasp issues like women’s rights to own property. Really, did you care about that stuff at age 6? They’re not playing with dolls to become turbo-feminist machines. They’re playing with them because it’s fun to stick things to other things.

    3) Really, as far as religious role models they could be pushing, this is pretty decent. They could have taken them from the Bible, and then we’d all be screwed. Then again, I like the idea of Barbies based on biblical females… beats the hell out of veterinarian Barbie.

    “Eve… Comes with apple and snake accessories. Fig leaves sold separately.”
    “Lot’s daughters… with wine and pregnant belly accessories!”
    ” Deluxe Delilah… now with scissors for you and her to share!”

  4. Talk about making these women two-dimensional yak yak yak

    I played with paper dolls :) We had barbie ones (barbies too… but for some reason the paper cut outs were pretty fun!) and some really nicely drawn ones which chronicled fashion of women in America from natives to circa 50s I think. The women were very intricate and took patience to cut out, and then you had to be careful while you were playing not to wrinkle or tear them, and when you were done you had to gather everything up and lay them flat in a bag or box. The dolls taught me to be respectful of my own efforts and the fashion ones came with nice history lessons. These potential christian bookstore bargain bin fillers look crap.

  5. After recently spending hours at the toy store trying to find the least stripper looking Barbie for a 7 year old’s birthday, these really don’t look so bad.

    Seriously, even the most tame barbie available came with hooker shoes.

    • I hate you so much for posting that and thereby encouraging me to look at it. Horror does not even begin to express…

      • OOOH! Fast and pray for him one day this week! Yes, make him dinner, and don’t eat it so that God will love his manly soul!

        • This:
          “Support his vision. Discuss his vision for your family. Where does he see your family in 1 year, 5 years, and 10 years. Share with us how you let your husband lead”
          was my favourite, though that came second.

          Now, I strongly advocate couples sitting down regularly, and reviewing their vision for their future together, and deciding how each of their desires will fit in to their eventual plans.
          But “discuss *his* vision for the family” really says it all…

    • Oh, my. The video is terrible. Somehow, I think of a husband who is “a drunkard” or “a drug addict” as more than just ” a hard to live with guy.”

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  9. I think the paper dolls are nice. But I’m bothered by the lack of diversity. I sent them an email about a year ago regarding this, but never recieved a response. I believe like any toy, it’s helpful to have a parent interact with the child at playtime. The parent can say, “These women were good but they weren’t perfect. Let’s explore their lives further.” It can become a great teaching moment.

  10. On the blog of the producers of those dolls, I left this response:

    “Why are all these dolls of daughters and wives of well-known men, none of women who themselves accomplished God’s will?

    For example women like Deborah in the Old Testament, the female prophets of both Old and New Testament, the apostle Junia, or (teacher and co-worker of Paul) Priscilla in the New Testament, Dorcas, the female saints throughout the centuries, Amy Carmichael, Corrie ten Boom, Gladys Aylward or other great women of God?

    Now that is the kind of dolls I would like.

    And if you want to do a daughter of someone, why not the daughter of Joe the plumber or Sam the mechanic? The message this gives is that the family you are born into makes you more important than the next person.”

    It is up to them if they publish this comment.

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