Speaking of Dolls: Two women’s seductive creations

From 1941-1957, Mrs. Hansi Share created and produced a doll that was ahead of its time in the small doll studio she owned in Hollywood, Calif. Perhaps influenced by the statuesque and seductive movie stars of the 1940s, Hansi Share created a doll with pouty lips and pensive painted eyes. Even the body of this doll was longer and leaner than the other play dolls of the period, giving the doll a sophisticated air. She was a child but somehow not a child.

On the tag, found hanging from a ribbon on the doll, it states that, “my hair grows right out of my head…” The Monica Doll Company was the first and only company to produce a composition and, later, a hard plastic doll with rooted hair. Human hair was actually rooted into the scalp. MVC doll scalp.jpgThe hairstyles of the dolls were elegant rather than cute and curly, giving the dolls a look of glamour.

This photo shows how the human hair was inserted into the composition scalp, a process never done before or since.

While a hard plastic version with open-and-close eyes was introduced in 1949, it is the early composition Monica dolls that are so beautiful. The Monica composition is flawlessly smooth with a matte, almost velvet, look to it. The dolls were jointed at the neck, shoulders and hips and had painted features with much detail including highlights and shading of the eyes and lips. According to advertisements, the dolls were sold in sizes 15 inches through 24 inches. (The larger sizes are the most difficult to find. Some of the larger sizes also came with a cloth torso rather than composition, but these models are seldom found.)

The Monica dolls were sold at upscale stores such as Neiman Marcus and F.A.O. Schwarz. Many dolls were dressed in gowns reflecting the glamour of the movie stars, but few original clothes can be positively identified unless found on an unplayed-with doll. The dolls were not marked and neither were the clothes. The only identification was the small gold tag hanging on the skirt when purchased.

These dolls are rarely found, especially in good condition. Even in terrible condition, however, they are a study in a very unusual creative process.
Another innovative woman in a business dominated by men was Marie Antoinette Leontine Rohmer. In her shop in Paris from 1857-1880, she produced French fashion ladies in both bisque and china. She patented a kid body with articulated joints and a kid body with gutta percha arms. She patented a method where the head of the doll could be turned by pulling strings attached inside the head; when pulled, the head would move from side to side.

Rohmer dolls can be found with both painted or glass eyes. As with the Monica dolls, great detail was given to the painting of the doll heads, especially the treatment of the eyes. Whether glass eyed or painted, shading and color blends were very important in giving the dolls an innocent yet seductive appeal.

Two women from two different periods of doll production history, both chose to create dolls with very different looks from what was considered normal for the period. Today these dolls are difficult to find and are expensive, but if you are fortunate enough to find one, they will look like no other doll in your collection.