My name is Ellen C. You would never guess to look at me that I am 60 years old. That is one advantage of being a doll. If treated with care we dolls don't usually show our age. I have heard that archaeologists sometimes find dolls that are hundreds, or even thousands of years old. I suppose being buried in some ancient tomb with King Tutti-Puttle would qualify as careful treatment. However, it doesn't sound one bit appealing to me. My forty years in a storeroom box seemed dull enough. But I am getting ahead of my story.

I am fifteen inches tall, have blue eyes that open and shut, real hair, and I can say out loud "ma-ma." There is a definite reason for my physical appearance, as I shall tell you later.

Dolls have been around for simply ages -- perhaps as long as people. They have had many purposes over the years. In ancient times dolls had religious significance or magical properties. They have always been useful historical records, showing how people lived and dressed. They have been important in educating children, and have provided companionship for both children and adults. Dolls often seem to develop personalities of their own.

Today dolls generally fall into two large groups -- those that are created for display and for looking at, and those meant for children to really play with. The survival rate of the second kind is naturally quite low. However, to be loved to pieces by a child is a worthy destiny for any doll. I, myself, was fortunate enough to be in the first category, or I might not be around to tell my story.

Back in 1926 in the factory where I was made there was much wondering and speculation as to where we would all end up. A nice lady who sewed wigs used to come and talk to us while she was resting from her work. She would explain to us how dolls ought to behave. We were to be loyal to children and listen to their confidences. We should try to cheer them up when they needed comfort. We were to be friendly to grownups as there are many who also love dolls. We should not complain if we were sometimes lost, left out in the rain, or stuck away in some attic and forgotten.

I noticed that many of the dolls in my factory were dressed in quite attractive outfits -- lace-trimmed dresses with matching or contrasting coats and hats. I also noticed that sometimes the clothes did not look very carefully made. They must have been put together rather quickly by machine. Then there were a number of us that were not fully dressed at the factory. We learned that we were a special group chosen to be Friendship Dolls. We would be sent to people all over the country and they would sew original costumes for us. Then we would go to Japan as Ambassadors of Friendship. You can imagine how excited we all were. We could hardly wait to find out where we would go first and how we would eventually look.

I must explain why we were to go all the way across the ocean to Japan. It seems that humans have a weakness for being suspicious of people who look "different." If someone has another skin color, has other ways of doing things, or has different beliefs -- that person might be dangerous. (Dolls are certainly not that foolish.) In the early part of this century there was a lot of prejudice against immigrants from Asia, especially on the west coast of America. Some of these intolerant people managed to get a provision included in the Immigration Act of 1924 that made it impossible for the Japanese to come and live in the United States, although they were not mentioned by name. Many Americans were distressed by this law and wanted to do something to show their friendship and regard for Japanese people. Thus the Committee on World Friendship Among Children was formed by the Council of Churches of Christ in America. The members of this organization realized that children are not naturally prejudiced. They must learn such attitudes from their elders. The Committee believed that a good place to start building ideas of world peace is in the minds and hearts of children. Dr. Sidney Gulick, an American missionary to Japan, suggested that "a friendship gesture between children might succeed where political and diplomatic maneuvers were failing," and he conceived the idea of having American children send dolls to the children of Japan as a gesture of love and friendship. The Japanese government responded favorably to the plan and publicity was started. The enthusiasm all across the country exceeded expectations and the Doll Messengers of Friendship project was underway.

A special department of the Committee was set up to handle the many details of the undertaking. It was named the Doll Travel Bureau so that children might better understand and visualize the idea of the ambassadors of good will. Three doll manufacturers agreed to make dolls in line with the standards set by the Committee. The price should be moderate but the dolls must be of good quality. Their faces, arms and legs should be of unbreakable material; joints and wigs handsewn; eyes should open and close; and the dolls should say "ma-ma."

All this activity took place during the autumn of 1926, and by November a number of us had been sent by train to the state of Ohio. Although we were all packed in boxes and couldn't see the scenery, the trip was quite pleasant. I enjoyed the rhythmic sound of the wheels clicking and the engine puffing, not to mention the enchanting train whistle. Upon arriving in Ohio we were distributed in various directions. My particular contingent went to a small city of about six thousand people in the southwestern part. It was named Wilmington and was the county seat of Clinton County. How quiet it seemed after the conglomeration of city noises I was accustomed to. I thought it must surely be a pleasant place to live with its wide streets, many trees, and neat houses. Prosperous-looking farms surrounded the town and I soon found that Saturday night was the time for everyone to come to town to buy groceries, go to the movies, and socialize.

I also learned that many of the people of Wilmington were Quakers, or Friends, as they were officially called. The Friends Meeting, one of the largest in the country, was to be my sponsor. Laurenna Farquhar (or Mrs. Milton J. Farquhar, as she was named in the newspaper accounts) was the chief organizer of the doll project in that area and she spent a great deal of time and effort visiting churches, clubs, and many kinds of organizations explaining the project and seeing that everyone who wished to participate received a doll to dress.

It was a busy time for everyone. Every few days the local newspaper, the Wilmington News Journal, included a story about the Friendship Dolls and which organizations had joined in the activity. I was intrigued by all the names and wonder if any are still meeting, like the Yani Club, the Six-and-Twenty Club, the Progress Club, the East End Harmony Club, the Loyal Bereans, the Seekers, or the Light Bearers. I won't take the time here to name all the participants, but I shall give a complete list at the end of my story.

I was the particular project of the Junior Department of the Wilmington Friends Sunday School. Wilmington Friends prepared seven dolls in all, and seven more came from neighboring Friends meetings. I don't wish to brag but I was really the most distinctive. After much discussion it was decided that I should wear an authentic old-time Quaker costume like those worn by the grandmothers of present members. There was a former milliner in town named Sarah Ann Johnson who had made more than four hundred bonnets for fellow Quaker women during her long career. She fashioned a most lovely silk bonnet to go with my silvery gray dress and shawl, edged with soft white.

Sunday, November 7, 1926, was a very special day as the Junior Department of the Friends Sunday School held an informal christening for me. (I was informed that Friends don't go in for formal rituals, such as baptisms, christenings, and such.) They named me "Ellen C." as a token of the love and regard felt by the entire community for Ellen C. Wright. "Teacher Ellen," as she was affectionately known, was a member of the first graduating class of Wilmington College in 1875 and taught there for many years. At this time she was retired, holding the title of Emeritus Professor of Latin, and was described by the newspaper account as "the friendliest of Friends."

I fear there are no surviving photographs of me from this time except for one that appeared in the Ohio Christian News for November 26, 1926. With me in my Quaker dress were some other dolls along with four children representing departments of the Sunday school. Anna Barbara Babb from the intermediate classes was the great-niece of Sarah Ann Johnson, my gracious bonnet maker. Reba and Betty Bevan, twin daughters of Orville Bevan, the Sunday school superintendent, represented the primary department. Laurenna Farquhar's grandson, Carlton, was included as a member from the beginners' class.

After I was duly dressed and christened I found myself one of the many dolls on display in a store window in downtown Wilmington. Part of our colorful flock were at Frank L. Gallup's store and others at Watt and Patterson's. Children and adults alike were fascinated with the variety and beauty of the hand-sewn dresses, coats and bonnets. Many a child was heard to express the wish to trade places with a Japanese child in order to receive one of the charming Doll Ambassadors.

I made some special friends among the dolls on display. One was "Reba Katherine Seeker" who came from the Seeker's Club of the Presbyterian Church. She was named for Reba Hendrick and Katherine Ames who had made her outfit. "Hope" was a lovely blonde doll contributed by the Beech Grove Friends Meeting, located quite near Wilmington. Another acquaintance was "Ninetta," one of the two dolls from the Six-and-Twenty Club. Her name was formed from that of the first club president combined with the present president's name.

All the stores and streets were decorated for Christmas and there was such excitement in the air. I could see people hurrying along with packages, many possibly containing Christmas dolls for their children. I felt sure that not many would be as elegantly dressed as the Friendship Dolls.

The high point of our time in Wilmington occurred on Wednesday, December 15th when we were all taken to the Nellie Moore Memorial building for a gala farewell reception. More than fifty dolls were arranged artistically on the stage for everyone to see and admire. My neighbor on this occasion was named "Nellie Emma." She came from the East End Harmony Club and her name had been chosen from those of two former members, Nellie Moore and Emma Stephens. Attendees numbered over one hundred and were welcomed by Laurenna Farquhar. Our gracious hostess received many well-deserved congratulations for her work on this project of love. Three young ladies, Susannah Hunnicutt, Donna Mitchell and Esther Helterbran, dressed in Japanese costumes, served dainty oriental refreshments of little cakes, puffed rice and sweets. Susannah Hunnicutt delighted the audience with her reading entitled, "An Invitation to American Dolls to Visit the Children of Japan." The poem, which was written by a Miss Moffat, began and ended with these words:

"Come, dolls of America, you're asked to go
      To a festival quaint, and you'd like it, I know;
So neatly and daintily dress in your best,
      And start on your travels with gladness and zest.
...tell of the friendship and interest true
      Of children whose flag is the red, white and blue,
For those who are living in cherry-blossom land,
      To whom they would hold out a child's friendly hand.
And the spirit of childhood shall show us the way
      To friendship that lasts, and to peace that shall stay.

Regretfully the time had come for us to say goodbye to our dear friends in Wilmington and Clinton County. Fifty-eight of us were ready to travel to New York City where we would board the steamers for Japan. Each doll carried a letter from her sender, along with a ticket and passport. Special-rate tickets, secured from the Doll Travel Bureau for ninety-nine cents, included railroad fare in the United States and steamer fare to Japan. Passports, costing one cent, were also supplied by the Travel Bureau and were stamped with the visa of the Japanese Consul General in New York.

First we jointed other doll messengers from all over the state of Ohio. Would you believe that ours was the banner state! A grand total of two thousand two hundred and eighty-three (2,283) dolls resulted from this movement sponsored by the Women's Committee of the Ohio Council of Churches. The city of Cleveland sent seven hundred, closely followed by Cincinnati with six hundred and seventy-five. Dayton came third with three hundred and forty-five, and then Columbus with one hundred and sixty-four.

Ellen Held by Eiko Takeda,
who has written several books
on the Friendship Dolls (1982)
All over the state public displays were held, including one at the governor's mansion in Columbus. Mrs. Donahey, the governor's wife, opened the lower floor of the executive mansion for a public reception and display.

Then it was on to New York where a thousand dolls were brought together for a final farewell ceremony at the Hotel Plaza. Dolls were present from every state but one, as well as from Canada, Bermuda, and Palestine. What a wonderful variety of costumes -- Girl Scout and Camp Fire uniforms, Red Cross nurse outfits, and every imaginable type of American children's dress. There were baby dolls, a bridal couple with a best man, and a few rather terrified boy dolls. One sensational doll was nearly as large as a child and could recite several nursery rhymes. I saw only one other Quaker lady, Rebecca from Philadelphia, although there may have been more. Forty-eight dolls were chosen to represent the states with the forty-ninth to serve as Miss America.

Five friendly steamship companies contributed space on their ships for our delegation, some sailing from New York and others from San Francisco. Travelers of today who can fly in a few hours to any spot on earth might consider our voyage long and tedious. It was a matter of weeks rather than hours to go through the Panama Canal and across the broad Pacific. To me it was a rather welcome rest after all the excitement of our previous weeks. It was soothing to hear the creaking of the ship and the sound of water rushing by, accompanied by the whispers of all the little passengers. Skeptical people may think that dolls don't communicate with one another, but how do they really know?

Eventually we landed at Yokohama where great receptions were held, both on board the ships and in a school before a large audience of adults and children. Some dolls landed at Osaka but all gathered in Tokyo for the grand welcome on March 3, 1927. As planned, we had arrived in time for the annual Hina Matsuri or "Honorable Small Dolls' Festival," the traditional girls' day and Feast of the Peach Blossom.

The Japanese Young Men's Hall in the beautiful outer garden of the Meiji Shrine was the scene of the official reception. The large hall was almost overflowing with Japanese and American guests, including more than two thousand children. Seven princesses of the royal family were present along with many diplomats and high officials. Two large flags of Japan and America were on the wall behind the stage, which was decorated with an impressive set of Japanese dolls placed on shelves as they are customarily arranged for the doll festival. The program included songs, greetings, speeches, welcomes, and band music by the Toyama Military School Band. Forty-nine American girls from the American School in Tokyo spoke a message of good will and presented Miss America to the granddaughter of Prince Tokugawa. Then all the other forty-eight girls handed over their Friendship Dolls to the Japanese girls. Speeches were given by the American ambassador, Mr. MacVeagh, and by Viscount Shibusawa, honorary chairman of the Japanese Committee on World Friendship Among Children, a most distinguished and kindly man of eighty-eight years.

This event was representative of the welcoming receptions held all over Japan in the prefectural capitals, and then in the local towns and villages where we were to find new homes in primary schools and kindergartens all over Japan.

My Japanese home turned out to be some distance from Tokyo, although nothing is as far here as it is in the United States. I traveled to the Southwest coast to Nagasaki Prefecture on the large island of Kyushu, one of the four large islands which make up Japan, along with over three thousand smaller ones. One of these small ones, about two hours travel from the city of Nagasaki, is named Hirado Island. It has historical significance in that it was the first seaport opened to Dutch traders during the feudal period of Japan's history when there was practically no contact with the outside world. A kindergarten on Hirado Island was to be my new home and I could not have arrived at a lovelier season. The spring sunshine was warm and the delicate pink of the cherry blossoms was everywhere. It was quite different from the snow and cold I had left in Ohio.

Different also were the bright black eyes of the Japanese children but the warmth of their welcome made me feel quite at home. They had waited with eager anticipation for my coming and their eyes shone with happiness. They took great delight in singing the Welcome Song, holding me in their arms, and drawing many charming pictures. Photographs were taken, also, as no function in Japan is ever complete without a photograph to commemorate the occasion. As in schools all over the country, teachers helped with the writing of thank-you letters, written by hand on Japanese paper, delicately decorated.

It was not long before thousands of school girls were contributing small coins to help send fifty-eight large Doll Ambassadors of Goodwill to the United States in acknowledgement of the Friendship Dolls. These were created by the most skillful doll artists in the land and were dressed to represent Japanese ladies of the aristocracy in gorgeous robes of the most luxurious silk to be found in Japan. I have often wondered what has become of these lovely creatures. Perhaps some day I shall find out.

As the years went by I came to appreciate the gently changing seasons and the festivals and customs marking the different times of the year. My favorite, of course, was the Hina Matsuri or Doll Festival which has a very long history and shows girls the importance of tradition in marriage and family life. It is also a celebration that observes the birthdays of all Japanese girls.

Almost every family has a set of festival dolls which may be family heirlooms, passed down from mother to daughter. The basic set of dolls may be added from time to time. In preparation for the festival of the "hina dan," wooden boxes in the form of steps, are placed in the most important room of the house. There can be three to eight tiers, but five is the most common, with seven also popular. The steps are covered with a bright red cloth. At the top are placed the emperor and empress, elegantly dressed, with a folding screen behind them. On the second step are three maids of honor, or court ladies-in-waiting, along with tables with dishes for food and drink to be served to the emperor and empress. On the third step are five court musicians with imperial guards on each side. Here are also an orange tree on the left and a cherry tree on the right, placed in the manner these trees are always found in the Imperial Court. On the lower shelves are other dolls from the collection along with pieces of miniature furniture, tableware, and dishes, as well as peach blossoms. Miniature chests, screens, tables, cabinets, flowers, or almost any item a bride might carry with her to her new home may be displayed.

The time of the doll festival is the most exciting time of year for Japanese girls. It might be compared to the excitement American children experience at Christmas time. For weeks before the festival, shops display dolls and miniature food items. Girls have many duties to perform in connection with the festival. They must wash and polish all the items to be used. Also they help plan and purchase all the food to be served to the dolls and to all the friends who come to see the displays. On the day of the festival, March 3rd, traditional ceremonies are carried out with the girl of the family as hostess, dressed in her finest embroidered kimono and most beautiful sash of obi. The festival lasts only one day but the dolls are often exhibited longer, and then put carefully away for another year.

The dolls are served a complete miniature dinner, including soup, fish, vegetables and sweets. Food is first offered to the emperor and empress and other doll guests. Then small tables are prepared for friends and family who eat from miniature bowls and dishes.

I was honored to be included in the Doll Festival each year, sometimes in the home of one of the teachers or one of the students. I made hundreds of new friends as each new class started kindergarten.

After a number of years (I must admit that I lost track of time) things began to be different. I could hear the teachers talking of the terrible war that was being fought all over the world. I felt very sad and disappointed when I learned that Japan and America were no longer friends, but bitter enemies. Had we Friendship Dolls failed in our wonderful mission? I did not think we had failed completely for some of the teachers were also sad about the war and did not agree with the militaristic leaders who were ordering teachers "to dispose of the American dolls sent by the enemies." I was really frightened when I heard that most of the friendship dolls were suffering brutal deaths. Some were being burned, some trampled on, and others pierced with bamboo spears to arouse in children's minds hatred against the Americans. However, I was reassured by the attitude of the teachers at my school. Two of the lady teachers argued that the Friendship Dolls had nothing to do with the war and they decided to lock me away in the school storage area until all the insanity was over. They maintained that people are different from governments and don't always approve of the foolish things governments sometimes do.

Thus it was that I began my years of living in a box in 1942. At first I kept wondering how soon someone would come and take me out. I was very lonely for all the children. As time dragged on I lost hope. It was then that I decided to follow the example of the Sleeping Beauty, whom I had heard about in a story. I would just go to sleep and time would not matter, even though it were a hundred years.

I did not sleep for a hundred years -- more like forty -- and it was not a prince who woke me up but someone cleaning out a dusty storeroom. I really didn't care, though. I was just delighted to join the real world once more. Fortunately my name tag was still intact along with the information that I had come from Wilmington Friends Bible School. It seems that I was the first Friendship Doll to be discovered in Nagasaki Prefecture and the event was publicized in the newspapers and on  television.

I was restored to my former honored place in the Hirado Kindergarten and once more became the friend of children. It took me some time to get used to all the changes that had taken place during my long sleep. I learned that I was fortunate to have survived the war. Even the dolls who were hidden away in the city of Nagasaki had been destroyed, along with countless people in the terrible bombing of August, 1945. I was very sad to know that it was the Americans who had dropped the atomic bomb. At the same time I was encouraged to learn how the survivors in devastated Nagasaki had regained the spirit and rebuilt their city. I felt proud to live in my adopted country of Japan, which has not spent large wasteful sums of money on armaments, but has built up useful industries.

A noted author of children's books, Eiko Takeda, came to visit me, along with Hirobumi Toyama, a high school teacher of English from Nagasaki. Thus it came about that I was included in a book written to help Japanese students learn English. It is called Little Mary, the Blue-eyed Doll, and is about a fictional Friendship Doll named Mary who was burned up in the Nagasaki bombing. I am also included in another book edited by Eiko Takeda about all the one hundred and seventy Friendship Dolls which have been discovered throughout Japan. Unfortunately for my American friends in Wilmington who have received a copy of this book from Hirobumi Toyama, it is entirely in Japanese and they will need help in translating it.

Another book in which I appear briefly is Dolls of Friendship, published in 1929 by the Committee on World Friendship Among Children. This book, now sadly out of print, describes in great detail the entire project, as well as the sending of the Japanese black-eyed ambassadors to America.

If anyone reading my story should ever visit Japan, do come and see me in the Hirado Yochien (Kindergarten), 1219-1 Iwanoue-Machi, Hirado City, Nagasaki Prefecture. I feel certain that this is not the end of my story -- merely the close of one chapter. I hope that the miracle of my survival will inspire many more bridges of friendship across the world.

Author Mary E. Stanfield is USFWI Secretary of Peace and Social Relations. She is a member of Wilmington Friends Meeting, and librarian in Xenia, Ohio. She represents USFW at annual meetings of Friends Committee on National Legislation, William Penn House Committee and the Friends Coordinating Committee on Peace. Her special interests are New Call to Peacemaking, Nuclear Freeze Movement, simplified lifestyles, women's rights, world hunger and sharing of resources.

Appendix A - Sources of Information
Appendix B - List of organizations in the Clinton County area that purchased and dressed 58 dolls 

Originally published as a booklet by the United Society of Friends Women International in 1986
Dedicated to Edna Smith, President of The United Society of Friends Women, International, 1980 to 1986

Special thanks to Mary Elizabeth Stanfield for permission to republish her book as a web page

Bottom photo courtesy of Miss Nagasaki Homecoming Committee

Wilmington College Peace Resource Center - March 2010 exhibit of Friendship Dolls including the homecoming from Hirado Kindergarten in Nagasaki Prefecture of Ellen C, the American Friendship Doll sent in 1927 by Friends Bible School in Wilmington, Ohio

Friendship Visit to Hirado Kindergarten

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