Emily was given to me when I was eight years old and unbelievably my parents put no constraints on my play with her. She wasn’t seen as anything special apart from being my favourite doll until I became too old to have a favourite.
Emily was given to me by a very old woman (she looked ancient), her exact age was unknown. She was a work colleague of my mothers and she would make occasional social visits. She was hospitalised for shingles in the next town as the hospital in our town could not cope with some-one as sick as she apparently was. My mother used to go and visit her a couple of times a week. I think this experience frightened Miss McAllistair into believing in her own mortality for shortly afterwards she gave me this doll. She retired within six months of giving it to me and left town. She had no relatives and I think she wanted her treasure to live with someone who would love her as she had. As the minimum retirement age for women in those days was 58 and I was 8 when I received the doll at the very least the doll is at least 100 years old, but I think it is a little older.
It is a bisque doll (often incorrectly called porcelain) which is a combination of unglazed porcelain with the body made of cloth or leather. This changed in the early 1900’s when a composite material became common for the bodies and eventually replaced the bisque head. The skin colour was obtained by adding colouring to the bisque and then fired at temperatures of greater than 2300 degrees farenheit. The face is painted on after the first firing and then followed by several more firings.
I did find out when I was trying to sell her that she is a good French doll. I even knew the name and the brand having confirmed it with the markings on the back of her head. These I have now mislaid and my memory unreliable. She is an open-mouthed doll with perfect little teeth, blue eyes with eyelids that shut. The manufacturing of this particular doll took place between the late 1860s to the turn of the century, thus confirming that Emily is definitely over 100 years old.
The most fantastic part of the doll in my opinion is her regalia. Purchased bald, the hair on her head came from Miss McAllistair’s first haircut and the dress and bonnet were cut out from Miss McAllistair’s mother’s wedding dress . These are now so fragile that immense care has to be taken when handling Emily to ensure that the tissue thin material is not damaged.
To think I used to play with her taking little care. I hate the thought of parting with her but I feel that as I keep her wrapped up in lead free tissue paper rarely seeing the light of day, and as I am in the same position as Miss McAllistair with no-one to leave her to, I should relinquish my rights to a collector who would display her and love her as she was clearly meant to be loved.