Another Day, Another Doll Hero


Our Daily Correspondent


H. Schönhauser, Mädchen mit Puppe (Girl with Doll), 1904.

Yesterday, after posting about the Edison Talking Doll, I was wracked with guilt. I could not believe that I, a lifelong defender of dolls, had turned on them so callously, joining the chorus of ignorant fear-mongering that contributes to the current hostile doll work environment! I was ashamed. 

I set about to offer a counterpoint. Surely, I thought, there must be some dolls out there whose good works I can acknowledge. I Googled “Doll saves life.”

And was I ever rewarded! It seems the news is full of hero dolls, if one bothers to look. For every Chucky, I found, there was a manikin teaching New Zealanders how to care for critically ill infants. For every Annabelle, a Depression-era rag doll taking a bullet. For every life-size toy contributing to the suffocation of a child in 1950, a baby-doll was saving a family from a fire

One woman even credits a doll with saving her from the Nazis. Sent to a Budapest Red Cross camp, little Tzipi Cohen found comfort in having “conversations” with a beloved doll. “After talking to my doll she told me to run away and try and find my way back home,” she recalled in March of this year. The night she ran away, Hungarian soldiers rounded up and killed the Jewish children in the camp. Cohen has now donated the doll to Shem Olam Faith and the Holocaust Institute for Education and Research. Says Rabbi Avraham Krieger, who heads Shem Olam, “In the absence of her parents, Tzipi ‘listened to her doll’s suggestion’ or in essence, her gut feeling, and found a safety line. The ‘conversations’ with the doll are an example of her personal struggle to maintain composure within an evil reality that had no logic.”

And in case you’re wondering, no, that wasn’t a talking doll. Those don’t give that kind of advice. They’re demonic.

Sadie Stein is contributing editor of The Paris Review, and the Daily’s correspondent.