Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Rasta Ann and Andy

Despite my initial negative impression of the Crescent City (see Gambina Dolls Protest), I enjoyed living in New Orleans from 1996-2005.  Still, for most of that time I avoided the French Quarter because I couldn’t stand the pickaninny dolls, mammies, and watermelon-eating coons grinning at me from every other shop window.  More than once I got thrown out of shops for voicing my objections to the sale of those dolls.  Finally, in January of 2004 I made a series of Raggedy Ann and Andy characters so that at least within my own home I could counter the negative images of African Americans projected by all the “pickaninny” dolls for sale in New Orleans’ French Quarter. 

I had always believed that Raggedy Ann dolls were a product of American folk culture, but a few years ago I learned that the Raggedy Ann character was created by cartoonist and illustrator, Johnny Gruelle.  Gruelle patented his design for the original doll in 1915.  He followed up with Raggedy Andy in 1920. 

I used a licensed pattern to make my “Rasta Ann and Andy” dolls and their clothes but added my own interpretation to their faces and hair.


Like family, these smiling faces greet me first thing when I wake up in the morning and comfort me before I turn over to go to sleep at night.

À Bientôt


  1. You did a wonderful job creating your Rasta Ann and Andy family of dolls.

  2. I have always loved Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls. I agree, you did a wonderful job with yours. I would have loved to be with you when you went into those shops protesting. I can hear the conversation now.

  3. I love the Rasta dolls. They remind me of the black Holly Hobby doll my mom made me. I wish I still had her. She was lost when my dad moved our stuff and left a box behind.

  4. Hi Dollz4Moi,

    I am sorry about the loss of your special Holly Hobby. The first Raggedy Ann I made was supposed to be a present for my niece but that doll brought up memories of a doll I had lost as a child and 40 years later the grief was still so deep I couldn't give her away. I made nine Rasta Ann and Andy dolls all together and my niece didn't get any of them!

  5. I love your dolls. I found Black Raggedy Ann/Andy Dolls for my son when he was in a NY hospital for surgery when he was 2 months old. They were for sale in the gift shop! They have Rasta hair and Kente cloth clothing. I also found a set of larger Black boy/girl dolls on ebay. They had learning tools built into the clothes--zippers, big buttons, shoe laces, snaps. My son loved them. We recently packed them up for storage so he can give them to his future kids. He's 9 now. :) My son & I are both multiracial(he is visibly Black, while I am taken for every ethnicity from A-Z) and as a mom and a pre-k special ed teacher, I was well aware of the famous white doll/Black doll self-esteem studies from the 60s. I made it my business to seek out Black dolls for both my son & my students, who were predominantly Black. No easy task in America. What I found intriguing was that the white kids wanted the Black baby dolls as much as the Black kids eventually did.

    Do you think you will make more dolls? I have two young nieces who would love them. All best, Maura (The Moxie Bee

  6. Dear Maura,

    Thanks for your comments. I think kids are much more accepting of and intrigued by differences until the adults around them attach meanings to those differences. I have a biracial niece. The first Rasta Ann I made was supposed to be for her but when I finished, I could not let the doll go. Instead I made her two baby dolls, one that looks like her mother as a baby, and one that looks like her father (my brother).

    I used a licensed McCall's pattern to make my Rasta Ann and Andy dolls. The pattern is for home sewing and does not provide rights to make the dolls for sale. The major pattern companies usually keep a Raggedy Ann and Andy pattern in print. If you can't find black ragdolls for your nieces you might be able to hire a seamstress to make them from one of these patterns.