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MA Little Women



Little Women dolls have been a part of the Madame Alexander line almost continuously since 1933 when a set of four sixteen inch cloth dolls were introduced. Based on Louisa May Alcott's characters in the girls' classic book "Little Women" from 1868, their introduction coincided with the release of the David Selznick-George Cukor movie based on the book. This classic film featured Joan Bennett as Amy, Jean Parker as Beth, Katharine Hepburn as Jo and Frances Dee as Meg. Marmee (the spelling used in the book) was played by Spring Byington, and Laurie, by Douglass Montgomery.

Madame Alexander has made the Little Women dolls in various sizes in composition, hard plastic and vinyl. The seven-inch Tiny Betty dolls in composition were made in the late 1930's.

In this set (left to right: Amy, Beth, Jo, Meg), Jo has blonde hair, even though in the book she's described as a brunette. Some people switch Jo and Meg but the way this set is shown is correct. Please note that most of the dolls pictured are or were in my collection except the cloth dolls shown first, one picture from a book, another from an auction I "lost", and most of the Marme's from a display at the Madame Alexander Doll Club Convention in Los Angeles in 1989.

The first set of hard plastic dolls appeared in 1948-9 in the fifteen-inch size. Another version of the movie, released in 1949, undoubtedly prompted renewed interest in Little Women dolls. This version starred Mary Astor as Marmee. Elizabeth Taylor played Amy (apparently wearing a blonde wig); Margaret O'Brien was Beth; June Allyson, Jo; Janet Leigh, Meg, and Peter Lawford, Laurie. The 15" hard plastic dolls made from 1948 through 1956 utilized 2 different head molds: Amy, Meg and Marme had the Margaret face, while Beth and Jo were Maggie-faced. (A Margaret O'Brien doll was produced by the Madame Alexander Doll Company, and although Margaret O'Brien played Beth in the 1949 movie, the Beth doll has the Maggie face.) The earliest hard plastic dolls have floss hair with the loveliest, the floss-haired Amy with looped curls produced before 1951. The set shown are from 1949, from left to right: Amy with floss hair in loop curls, Jo (Maggie face) in a powder blue dress with red bodice, Beth (also Maggie face) in a blue print, Marme in taffeta that probably faded to sepia from green, and Meg in another blue print.

Eight-inch hard plastic Little Women were first shown in the 1956 catalog although sets were available in 1954 and 1955. These dolls were the straight leg walker dolls, and came in a variety of costumes. Here, from 1954 are Amy in white pin dots on pink, Beth in green taffeta (can be in polished cotton), Jo in red taffeta, Meg in red gingham checks with a green apron, and Marme in a lavender and white print with a black apron. In this set, Amy has white shoes, Beth magenta, and Meg, green. I'm not sure if the sets with colored shoes were store specials.

This set is from 1955: Amy in white dots on a blue background, Beth in pink polished cotton with green rick-rack trim, Jo in red cotton, Meg in pink gingham checks and Marme in a brown print. These outfits are very similar to 1955. The collar on Jo's dress is cotton, and in 1954 was netting.

Jo's dress from 1955 has been seen in red, light blue and yellow cotton.

Marme's dress has been seen in a multitude of prints and colors. Here is part of a wonderful display at the 1989 Madame Alexander Doll Club Convention in Los Angeles. These dolls belong to several different people (including myself). The 8" dolls are all Marme from 1954 and 1955. The doll in the back row center is my hard plastic Marme wearing her First Place medal she and her girls won in the Competition at the MADC Convention in 1987.

Meg of 1954-55 can be seen in red or pink gingham with a green apron, or the same outfit in a blue floral with blue apron shown above.

Bent knee walkers were used from 1956 into 1965 (some dolls in 1965 were bent knee non-walkers), and the costumes changed yearly in the late 50's. The above are from 1956. I got them all on eBay in 4 separate transactions. All the dresses are cotton except Beth's which is taffeta. I'm still looking for the right Marme. Missed out on this one (photo from auction).

This is a shelf of BKW Little Women: 1958 Amy, Beth, Jo, Meg and Marme, 1959 Beth, Amy, 1963-4 Beth in pink pique and 1961-2 Beth in blue check gingham.