Before Jessica Rabbit, there was a redhead even more famed and beloved (and modestly attired) — iconic dolly Raggedy Ann celebrates her centennial birthday this year, but remains as youthful as the day she was first stitched together.
The doll with embroidered optimism and candy heart has long been considered a special part of Americana, but Raggedy Ann is unarguably a treasure all over the world; and her essence, the timeless values and joy her creator tried to inspire – love, kindness, and the belief in magic – ensures that whether as a plaything, a storybook figure, or a memory wistfully reminisced upon by older generations, she remains a familiar presence in many a childhood.
The tale of Raggedy Ann’s origins are bittersweet; in 1915, artist and writer Johnny Gruelle found a doll in his attic that “instantly sparked” the illustrator’s creativity. He fixed her up, painted a face on her, and gifted it to his daughter, Marcella. Fascinated by Marcella’s love for the toy, Johnny began to weave a series of narratives with the once-raggedy plush as the central character.
Only Marcela never got to celebrate the success of her favourite dolly and her adventures in the ‘Deep, Deep Woods’. Before her father had secured the patent for the doll, the 13-year-old died due to purported complications from a smallpox vaccine.
Nevertheless, Grueller continued working on the idea inspired by his little girl. In 1918 Gruelle introduced Raggedy Ann Stories and wrote one new book a year for 20 years after that. In 1920, he gave Ann a jauntily dressed brother, Raggedy Andy.
Ann was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2002. Raggedy Andy, of course, followed in her footsteps, earning his spot in the hall of fame five years later.
Fans can collect their own special-edition versions celebrating this centenary year for the Raggedy duo — with little change to the original dolly who first captured the heart of a child.