Comp Lit 203 Group Archival Research Project

Group Members: Delaney Dykman, Madeline Spaulding, Lauren De La Rosa, Caroline Horvat

Item Annotations:

Annotation: The Original Barbie (Delaney Dykman)

  1. This item is the original Barbie, which was created in 1959. The doll can be seen styling blue eyeshadow and dark eyeliner with red lipstick. The doll is accessorized with gold hoops while wearing a black and white zebra-striped swimsuit. The original Barbie could be either a blonde or brunette, both types of dolls being blued eyed and caucasian while sporting a high ponytail. This doll was created to give girls more of a versatile doll, one that wasn’t just a baby or toddler doll; Barbie is a young woman capable of many things. Barbie was created by Ruth Handler and her debut occurred on March 9th,1959 at the New York Toy Fair.
  2. I feel that it is important to know the purpose of Barbie in order to make sense of this object when you see it. Barbie was created for girls to play with and give them a doll that was more unique than ones that had been in the toy market previously. Unlike other dolls, Barbie was presented as a real person, she is capable of holding different careers, and the years following her debut, other barbies were created with careers such as a flight attendant, a registered nurse, fashion editor, and an executive career girl. 
  3. This item was not found in the archival collection
  4. I feel that this object relates to American Girlhood, in a sense that Barbie was a staple doll during the late 1900s and continues to be to this very day. That being said, Barbie reflects a lot about how young girls are expected to act and look according to society. Barbie has big eyes, long eyelashes, and is always wearing makeup and sporting very feminine outfits. Furthermore, Barbie has very unrealistic body proportions- a big chest, thin legs, and a small waist. Additionally for almost twenty years, Barbie Dolls were solely white, it wasn’t until 1980 that a Latina and African American doll were launched in the Barbie brand. The specific body type and race that Barbie was for the first twenty years of its production shows the exclusion was not uncommon amongst dolls. With a lack of representation, many girls are left feeling invisible and unnatural, Barbie is a perfect example of setting standards for girls that are absurd. I picked this object because I grew up playing with Barbie’s but never felt like I could ever look like one. I always dreamed of being like Barbie, living underneath the sun with long legs and a perfect smile, but of course, that never happened. Growing up I feel as if dolls such as Barbie made beauty seem like strict guidelines but as I got older and became the woman I am today I’ve learned that beauty has no criteria. Sometimes I wonder how my outlook on myself would be growing up if I was surrounded by brands that spread body positivity. I know that many of my fellow classmates probably grew up with Barbie Dolls in their life as well and hopefully looking at the dolls today they too would be able to see how silly it was that these standards were once respected and marketed. I feel that as of 2020 our society has done a lot better at accepting and respecting the difference women have in their appearance but there is always more room for improvement. 

Annotation: If I Ran the Zoo (Madeline Spaulding)

  1. If I Ran the Zoo is a short story about Gerald McGrew’s dream to create a zoo where all of the animals are able to run free and the zoo is filled with the most exotic animals.
  2. Dr. Seuss describes Gerald McGrew’s dream through a playful tone and makes the story engaging to children as the book is filled with rhymes. This item scripts children to create their own dreams.
  3. A topic that is important to understanding this book is knowledge of how a normal zoo is run. The author assumes that children reading these books have been to a zoo before and seen animals locked up in cages. This book also assumes that children know what stereotypical images of race are. Such as Chinese characters shown as a person with two lines as eyes with traditional shoes on and an African person shown as shirtless, shoeless, and in charge of taking care of exotic animals. 
  4. Dr. Seuss is a well-known author who has written a variety of different children’s books that have gained great popularity such as Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham. He is known for writing in rhyme and his unique illustrations. 
  5. This book was originally published in 1950 with the title If I Got to the Zoo. 
  6. Events in history that could have influenced the creation of this book is the Korean War which started in the 1950s. As well as the Civil Rights Movement, in which African Americans were fighting for rights and equality.
  7. Some interesting information to research would be how the public viewed zoos in the 1950s. I know today there are movements to free the animals and I am curious if people had this same perspective back then. 
  8. This piece is significant to American girlhood today because of the racism that is portrayed in the images and writing of this book. There are many similarities of racism displayed in books and toys that we have discussed and analyzed in class. Children reading racist literature can impact how they view race in this world.

Annotation: Uncle Tom’s Cabin written for young readers (Lauren De La Rosa)

  1. For my object, I have chosen Uncle Tom’s Cabin which was an edition that was rewritten for young readers. The book is about Uncle Tom, a slave who befriends a young girl named Eva along his travel to New Orleans to be auctioned. The book contains pictures to show young readers what is happening in the story. There are three pictures. One picture is where a woman is begging a man to buy her daughter at action for slaves, another is Miss Ophelia a white maid dragging Topsy a slave child behind her. Lastly is a picture of Eva Uncle Tom’s friend begging her father to buy Uncle Tom no matter the price.
  2. The item is trying to teach children about slavery and about the time during the time. It was written for children of the white class who could relate to these topics of having slaves and power against them. The tone is very lighthearted and they frequently use the n-word in reference to the slaves. It may script violent play as we saw in the Bernstein article.
  3. This item is very racist and includes thoughts of class and differences in socioeconomic status along with inequality. The rich white families have the power to have slaves because of their money. It is important to understand the idea of slavery before the 13th amendment and how it has shaped the United States today. It is another example of an oppressed group similar to the native Americans and all of the stories we read about them being displaced by the government. It also relates to the Bernstein Article in the form that it might script a different play of African American dolls.
  4. The original author is Harriet Beecher Stowe but it has been rewritten by Mary E. Blain and illustrated by Hugo Von Hofsten. There seems to be nothing that comes up by Mary E. Blain but her full name is Mary Emma Salisbury Base she wrote games for Halloween, games for all occasions, and Uncle Tom’s Cabin rewritten. It is very interest that she wrote under a pseudonym and wrote games rather than books. A lot more comes up for the illustrator, he was a rich artist from Sweden with very fine art pieces.  He did many other illustrations for books such as Alice in wonderland, robin hood, and bible stories for children.
  5. The item was written during the lifetime of Harriet Beecher Stowe which was 1811-1896 but was attained at some point between 1900-1909. It has a green cloth binding with illustrations
  6. During the time that Uncle Tom’s Cabin was written slavery was an accepted activity and had a negative effect on people’s attitudes towards African Americans. However, this story was written by an abolitionist and was supposed to create sympathy for the slaves. It inspired many stereotypes and words to call African Americans.
  7. It was intended to be a shorter narrative that would only run for a few weeks but it was instantly popular and now is one of the most sold books to date Abraham Lincoln said that Stowe was “the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war”.
  8. This book is important to the study of American girlhood as one of the main characters named Eliza befriends a slave and also the author is a woman which is not common of this time. It is such a famous book and it needs analysis I hope not many others chose it. The girl is nicer than others and tries to be nice to the slave. 

Annotation: Shindana Dolls: Little Friends’ Collection (Caroline Horvat)

  1. This item is the Little Friends Collection in the Shindana Toy Line. The Shindana dolls were created in 1968 in Los Angeles, California. This doll collection features baby dolls of different ethnicities. This collection was created to represent children from around the world. The company desired to foster love and strove to create dolls that accurately reflected children of different ethnicities. The dolls’ heads, arms, and legs were movable for play with children. The dolls are dressed in colorful clothing, shoes, and the girl dolls featured accessories in their hair. The dolls came with a variety of hairstyles, hair colors, eye colors, and skin colors. 
  2. I think that to be familiar with these dolls is important to understand their purpose. These dolls were created to be played with by children. It is not clear if these dolls were marketed towards girls and boys or just girls. These dolls are presented as baby dolls to be cared for and taken care of. 
  3. This item is not from an archive collection.
  4. The Shindana dolls are significant to American girlhood because they reflect a variety of ethnicities of children from all around the world. These dolls may have been the first time that a child had the ability to play with or even see a doll that looked like them. These dolls gave every child the opportunity to see themselves in their own toy. The Shindana doll company is also important because they were one of the first doll companies to create ethnically-accurate black girl dolls. This is significant because often black dolls were created with exaggerated and stereotyped features that perpetuated racism.

Reflection Essay:

The items that we chose relate to how race is represented in children’s toys and books. Many times children’s play items depict many instances of racism and it has taken a long time for some of these items to be corrected. As we have seen throughout the semester, children’s toys in many times lead to them creating their own views about the world and can contribute to negative actions like violent play. This is one of the reasons that depicting toys and books in a respectful and correct way is very important. The items that we chose to look at were two children’s books and two dolls. We chose the two books If I Ran the Zoo book and Uncle Tom’s Cabin due to their racist depiction of characters. Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a classic story from 1852 that was considered an anti-slavery novel. There were many versions of this book that were created including this edition for young readers. Although this is supposed to be an anti-slavery book and children’s book there is violence and much offensive slang usage towards the slaves. This was a very popular book from the time and many editions were created. The edition that we looked at in particular was one for young readers. It was meant to relate to kids who came from slave-owning families. Over one hundred years later, a children’s book called If I Ran the Zoo by the famous children’s author, Dr. Seuss, was written about a little boy’s dream to run a zoo filled with the most exotic animals, allowing them to run free. This book and many of Dr. Seuss’s books were filled with racist images such as Chinese characters being represented as a person with two lines as eyes, wearing traditional shoes or African people being shown as shirtless, shoeless, and tending to only exotic animals. Much progress was made during these hundred years but yet racist depictions of characters were still very prevalent even in popular literature that is still read to this day. 

The dolls that we chose were The Original Barbie doll and the Shindana Dolls: Little Friends’ Collection. These objects show how often many races were excluded in toys and how white dolls were idealized. While the Original Barbie only represents white children, the Shindana dolls collection is a great representation of different races. While dolls have been around for years, it took until around 1968 to have racially and ethnically accurate and inclusive dolls. The Shindana dolls are important because they provide every child the opportunity to play with a doll that looks like them. In contrast, the beginning of Barbie is similar to the books we annotated when discussing the idea of how children’s toys and books can hold powerful messages. The Barbie doll shows the lack of representation for many other cultures, races, and body types for many children that were actually playing with the doll. Like the other annotated items, it was only after a long time that the product was put on the shelf for people to realize that there was something wrong. The Shindana doll is a perfect contrast to Barbie in the sense that the roots of its creation revolve around inclusion. For this project, we chose to look at how race is represented in children’s literature and toys to draw attention to unacceptable racist items and to show how race should and should not be represented in children’s items. It is important to have a respectful and accurate racial representation of different races in children’s toys and books to show every child that they are cared for and not treated differently because of their race. We chose to highlight three racist items and one racially-accurate item in our project to show the completely different impacts that these items have on children. Racist items reinforce racist ideas and impact the ideas formed by children. Including accurate racial representation in children’s items allows children from all backgrounds to see a child that looks like them and be able to relate to them.

Race has been a means of grouping people together by ethnic, social, and national backgrounds. Our items relate to our class discussions on the Keywords Essay on Race. Often children’s literature and toys reveal “America’s problematic history and racist thinking” such as the ones listed above (Smith 189). In the book, If I Ran the Zoo, the story invokes stereotypical representations of race and homogenizes people of color through the pictures in the story. In the book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, racist slurs are used to remind the readers that white people are dominant and powerful, which encouraged children to engage in racist play. There have been many criticisms over the years that children’s literature is really “The All White World of Children’s Literature” because of the derogatory representations of characters as well as the underrepresentation of ethnic groups (Smith 191). As for the toys, Barbie originated around 1959 and only represented one race. It wasn’t until around 1968, almost 10 years later that Shindana dolls emerged representing a variety of race and ethnic groups accurately. Throughout our material culture and through these items we have researched, race has been represented and ignored in many inaccurate ways. 

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