Last year Tablet profiled the creator of the Madame Alexander Doll Company, a Brooklyn-born daughter of Russian immigrants named Bertha who reinvented herself as the regal Madame. (Today, 91 years after the company’s founding, its employees still refer to her as “Madame”—just one name, like Cher.) Bertha grew up working in her parents’ doll hospital on the Lower East Side; during World War I, when replacement parts for fancy European dolls were scarce, she bailed out the family by coming up with cloth dolls modeled on Red Cross nurses. Patriotic and lucrative! From there, she spun off her own business, eventually inventing “sleep eyes” and rooted hair, and creating the first “fashion doll” in 1955—four years before the debut of another Jewish fashion icon, Barbie.
Madame died in 1990, and the company went through some hard times. Today, though, it seems on strong footing, owned by Kahn-Lucas, a Jewish family-owned apparel company established in 1889 that has licenses for Fancy Nancy, Angelina Ballerina, Gone with the Wind, the Muppets, the Wizard of Oz and Disney Frozen dolls. (Me, I covet the Nellie Bly and Ada Lovelace collectable dolls. Feminist icons FTW!)
Last year, as my colleague Stephanie Butnick wrote, Madame finally got her own doppelganger, clad in a flapper dress, fur stole, and rhinestone fascinator, holding two tiny baby dolls. This year, there’s a new kid on the collectable front just in time for Hanukkah: a Hanukkah-themed, old-fashioned-looking 8” little-girl doll. She has brown curly hair tied with gold ribbon matching a gold-lace-skirted dress. There’s soutache and velvet and petticoats and bows, oh my. And she comes with a gold-painted dreidel (complete with nun-gimel-hey-shin surfaces) that spins. Can you feel the rush of air as bubbes all over the land faint?
“Madame Alexander was a woman of valor; her Jewish heritage is relevant,” says Judy Herbst, Madame Alexander’s Senior Marketing Director. “It’s important to bring holiday dolls to girls of all backgrounds.” The new “Happy Chanukah” doll retails for $99.95, but you can get one for free in Tablet’s sweepstakes. Come on, spin!
Click here to enter Tablet’s Madame Alexander Hanukkah doll giveaway. The contest ends Dec. 16.
Marjorie Ingall is a former columnist for Tablet, the author of Mamaleh Knows Best, and a frequent contributor to the New York Times Book Review.