Church Dolls

Name:  Church Dolls

Made by and When: Debbie Behan Garrett, 2008-present

Material:  Cloth, embroidery thread or yarn, glue, pipe cleaners, polyfil

Marks: Dolls #9 and higher are initialed, numbered, and dated by the artist

Height: Varies between 4 and 5 inches

Hair, Eyes, Mouth: Individually applied strands of embroidery thread or yarn, no facial features

Clothes: White cloth or felt skirt, white crocheted overskirt

Other: Church dolls date back to the U. S. Civil War era.  During church services, a mother or grandmother used handkerchiefs to create dolls to keep fidgety children occupied.  Small enough to fit in a pocket, they would not make noise if dropped during the service. 

After discovering church dolls in approximately 2008, the curator searched for an African American version to add to her private collection. This search was futile.  Therefore, she made herself one, which is illustrated in the first gallery photo. Her intention had been to make more dolls to sell.  Instead, she gave a total of 14 away to special people first.

Garrett’s church dolls are all one-of-a-kind, entirely handmade, and fashioned for adult collectors.  Because it is difficult to find women’s handkerchiefs, she uses other “soft” materials. The framed history of the church doll, a votive candle, and display instructions are included with each doll.



Your comments are valued. Donations aid the initiative to preserve Black-doll history. 

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Published by DeeBeeGee

Doll collector, historian, co-founder of the first e-zine devoted to collecting black dolls; author of black-doll reference books, doll blogs, and doll magazine articles.

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