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Before Rosa Parks – There Was Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

Fri 7th October 2016

Inspired by one of our long standing customer friends whose black dolls are purchased to be renamed, redressed and given their own historically accurate story, we’ve put together our own Black History month: A Tribute in Dolls.

A doll-with-story is not a new idea of course,  but it’s one of the best, particularly when the representation is meaningful. It’s a great way to teach children about history too. It’s also great play and accessible to everyone!


Black History Month In Dolls
Mrs F.E.W. Harper in 1902

Before Rosa Parks – There Was Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

Frances Harper was a poet, publishing her first book of poetry at the age of 20, entitled Forest Leaves.  She was the first black woman to publish a short story and her story “The Two Offers” was published in Anglo-African Magazine in 1859

Black History Month
A Tribute to Mrs F.E.W HarpHowever, her most famous literary publication was Shadows Uplifted (1892), published as a book when she was 67 years old.

Her aunt and uncle brought her up after her mother died when she was just age 3.  She was born free which meant that she could have an education. She attended her uncle’s school run for African American children, the Academy for Negro Youth. At fourteen Frances worked as a seamstress, but it was whilst working doing domestic chores within a Quaker family household filled with books where her literary interest grew. At 25 Frances became a teacher of domestic skills and sewing at Union Seminary. It was here that Frances became dedicated to the abolitionist cause a after her home state of Maryland passed a fugitive slave law. This law allowed even free blacks, such as Harper, to be arrested and sold into slavery. She continued to write poetry, publish literary works, and travel the lecture circuit for the American Anti-Slavery Society. She demanded equal rights for all including black women. She worked tirelessly to support women’s suffrage causes, and the National Association of Colored Women and the Women’s Christian Temperence Union. In 1858 She refused to give up her seat or ride in the “colored” section of a segregated trolley car in Philadelphia (100 years before Rosa Parks) and wrote one of her most famous poems, “Bury Me In A Free Land,” when she got very sick while on a lecturing tour.


rosa-parks-big
Harper died of heart failure on February 22, 1911, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was buried next to her daughter, Mary, in the cemetary of a Unitarian Church in Philadelphia.

 

Our doll, Maru & Friends Raven, is a proudly African American doll, created by Marizta Gutierrez who was an immigrant child in America from Cuba. She was inspired to create the doll brand to tell her story, and to create ethnically diverse dolls for children to play with. The main character of the brand is Maru, a Latina doll, who was “born” from a true story about a young Hispanic girl who had to leave her country to live in America with relatives. Maritza’s first friends in America were girls that looked like Jamie, Savannah and Tanya dolls. Raven and Valentina dolls were added to the series more recently.

Raven’s dressed in fabulous Carpatina clothing in the larger American Girl size.

Next week in our Culture section, read our tribute to Colette Colvin.

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