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Dolls—a figure of a human used especially as a child’s plaything—have experienced major transformations in appearance and purpose as they have moved from adult worlds to girls’ cultures. The material culture of dolls and their shifting meanings have been shaped by changing constructions of girlhood and womanhood, as well as broad political, economic, social, and cultural forces—from colonialism to industrialization and globalization, the Enlightenment to multiculturalism, civil rights to feminisms, adversity to prosperity, and world wars to the culture wars. This entry examines the early history of dolls in the United States, how both consumer and play cultures impacted their development over time, and the market and role of dolls in the United States since the 1950s.

Dolls in the Pre-Columbian and Colonial Periods

The prehistoric Anasazi ...

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