One of the nicest Valentine’s I’ve ever received came from R. John Wright Dolls. It was a large felted heart with a gold cord and a jumbo size RJW gold button embellishment. That brand of friendship and kindness lies at the heart of Valentine’s Day.
St. Valentine was a teacher and martyr who was jailed for his religious beliefs. Several versions of his life have been documented, but it is hard to know which ones are a legend, and which are true. One version says that while imprisoned, he taught the jailor’s daughter, who was blind. Remember there was no Braille then, no talking books, no Seeing Eye dogs, and no accommodation of any kind for her. She learned by listening to Valentine. The night before he was executed, Valentine wrote the girl a note and signed it, “your Valentine.” A tradition was born. The miracle associated with St. Valentine is that after his death, his young student’s sight allegedly was restored.
Dolls, as well as miracles, have been associated with St. Valentine’s Day for some time. Everything from statues of the saint to red and pink plush dolls and animals appears in stores during early February. Cherub statues and cupid figurines, as well as angels, symbolize the spirit of the day. Many are made in Germany and are Meissen. Interesting examples come from Japan, as well, including Angels of the Month and Kewpies made by Lefton. Cupid, of course, is the son of Venus/Aphrodite in Greek and Roman myth. His Greek name is Eros, and he is associated with Romantic love.
R. John Wright Dolls have also brought us wonderful dolls that fit Valentine’s displays. The Flower Fairies fit the theme well, especially The Rose Fairy and Apple Blossom Fairies. The Tin Man has earned his heart, of course. Glinda of the Wizard of Oz Mice with her shimmering pink gown exudes the sweetness and goodness associated with Valentines. Close your eyes, and you can see her cradling a tiny candy heart with “I love you” stamped on it.
Speaking of candy hearts, Raggedy Ann and Andy have them, symbolically now, but the earliest examples of Ann had real candy hearts, just like the books. R. John Wright Dolls premiered the Raggedy Ann Collection in 2004, as a faithful portrayal of the beloved doll. Celestial Musician and the other Hummel angels fit the category of Valentine dolls, too, since angels, cherubs, cupids, and seraphim are associated with the holiday in different ways.
Petit Four, the darling mouse of Springtime Friends, has her sugary confection, a pink felt Petit four that would be delectable at a Dolls’ Valentine Tea.
Antique Kewpies with their tiny blue wings fit very well with a Valentine theme. In fact, antique and vintage Valentines go very well with dolls dressed in frothy pink or deep red, colors associated with Valentine’s Day. How can you resist the Pink Bonnet Kewpie (Ok, all of the Bonnet Kewpies!) and the Scootles in the rose organdy party dress? They are simply PERFECT for Valentine's Day! Also, don't forget Peppermint Pal!
Finally, let’s not forget The Queen of Hearts from the Alice in Wonderland collection and The White Rabbit/Queen’s Court, wearing a uniform adorned with red hearts. Many of the characters from the Alice in Wonderland Series are perfect for V-Day - even the grumpy Gardner!
This Valentine’s Day, decorate your house with Valentine’s Dolls and cutouts, take out your angel and cherub figurines, serve your favorite heart-shaped treats, and remember the saint who began a tradition based on love, kindness, and friendship.
About the author: Ellen Tsagaris has collected dolls since she was three years old. She has made dolls, priced dolls, repaired, dressed, and studied dolls. She has set up at craft shows and presented papers on dolls and their history at the Midwest Modern Language Association. She is the author of several articles on dolls that have appeared in Doll Reader, National Doll World, Doll Designs, International Doll World, Hope and Glory, Doll News, Adventures, and The Western Doll Collector. She is the author of two books about dolls, Bibliography of Doll and Toy Sources and With Love from Tin Lizzie; A History of Metal Heads, Metal Dolls, Mechanical Dolls, and Automatons. An active blogger, she features two blogs about dolls, Dr. E’s Doll Museum, and Doll Museum. She lectures on dolls for various organizations and has displayed part of her collection in museums.
“Dolls are among the oldest cultural artifacts, and perhaps are the oldest toys. My passion for dolls began when I was a toddler, and it has never stopped. Explore the wonderful world of all things ‘doll’ with me.”