It took 90 years, but Madame Alexander finally got her own Madame Alexander doll. In a tribute to Beatrice Alexander Behrman, the woman who created the iconic Madame Alexander doll in 1923, the company has created a likeness of its founder, a pioneer in the toy industry (she invented “sleep eyes” for dolls!), and a trailblazing female entrepreneur.
Tablet columnist Marjorie Ingall toured the Madame Alexander showroom earlier this year and shed light on the woman behind the dolls, wondering why we’ve so eagerly claimed Ruth Handler, Barbie’s creator, while never really knowing much about Alexander. Her story, after all, is a charmingly familiar-sounding one: an immigrant Jewish family on the Lower East Side repairing children’s toys in a doll hospital on Grand Street, and a creative, industrious daughter.
A few years after graduating high school—married, with a husband and little daughter Mildred (another child died in the Spanish Flu epidemic)—Alexander decided to hire her sisters and create an entire doll company of her own. In 1923, she got a $1,600 loan and established the Alexander Doll Company. She eventually brought in her husband Philip (who’d been working at a hat-making company) by threatening to divorce him if he didn’t join her. “I meant it,” she later told Stephanie Finnegan and Lia Sargent, authors of Madame Alexander Dolls: An American Legend. “It seemed to me I can always get another man.”
Now, Madame is getting her due, as only she can truly appreciate. A limited edition of 125 dolls have been released to mark the company’s 90th anniversary, featuring the glamourous founder clad in a bejeweled flapper dress, fur stole, and 1920s rhinestoned headband. “And as she is the Madame, renowned doll maker,” the announcement says, “she comes with two very sweet little cloth dolls.”
“My mother-in-law would plotz,” Ingall said of the doll. And probably not just at the high-fashion get-up—the dolls retail at $1,500 each.
Related: The Woman Behind the Dolls
Stephanie Butnick is deputy editor of Tablet Magazine and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.