Miss Pym and a Friend

Miss Pym and a Friend

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Happy Birthday Louisa May Alcott

Happy 184th Birthday to the beloved author of so many wonderful books, certainly a Muse of Mine!!

Below is something I wrote on Alcott and dolls in her books; it is a brief excerpt from a longer MMLA paper; enjoy, and Happy Holidays!!

In his essay,  “A Philosophy of Toys”: Baudelaire writes that “ the whole of life exists” in a “great toy shop” and it is “far more highly sparkling and polished than real life.” Those who love films like Mr. "Magoriums Wonder Emporium "would probably agree with him.    Dolls and toys represent life in miniature, brought to a scale and level that children can understand.  A child’s life extends through the life of her toys, and her imagination animates them, as Andy’s does in the Toy Story Films. For a child, her dolls are her companions, portraits, actors in her plays, and scapegoats for her miseries.

"Little Women", 1868, one year after my Great-Grandmother and Laura Ingalls Wilder were born: Nowhere does the doll represent an extension of her owner than in Alcott’s "Little Women."  Since the book was written, there have been hundreds of doll representations made of the characters, in paper and 3-D form, in all media.  There are also many other works or art, both serious and kitschy, that immortalize them, as well as several films and TV series.

Alcott herself was 13 when Charlotte Brontë died, and was aware of "Jane Eyre."  There, Brontë writes of the importance of dolls as companions to children, and the orphan Jane only has her doll to comfort her in the desolation of the Reed house.

 The March girls do not have many toys, but they have their games, pastimes, and theatrical play. Beth is the only sister described as having dolls.  Thirteen year-old Beth March is the shyest of the four March girls.  She loves her pets, her six misfit dolls, and her music. Anne K. Phillips writes in “Toys, Games, and Play in Little Women” that given the family’s poor economic status, six dolls seem “ a surprisingly large number of toys”. Beth is a juvenile “Angel of the House,” and at thirteen, is her mother’s best companion.  She helps with household chores, but is still very much a child who cares for her sisters bedraggled, broken, and cast out dolls.

Beth often saves them from the trash or ragbag.  The following description describes the relationship Beth has with her dolls: "Beth was too bashful to go to school . . . She was s housewifely little creature . . . not lonely nor idle, for her little world was peopled with imaginary friends . . .There were six dolls to be taken up and dressed every morning, for Beth was a child still, . . . not one whole or handsome one among them; all were outcasts till Beth took them in; for when her sisters outgrew their idols, they passed to her . . . Beth cherished them all the more tenderly for that very reason, and set up a hospital for infirm dolls.  No pins were ever stuck into their cotton vitals; no harsh words or blows ere ever given them, no neglect ever saddened the heart to the most repulsive, but all were fed and clothed, nursed, and caressed, with the affection which never failed.  One forlorn fragment of dollanity had belonged to Jo; and, having led a tempestuous life, was left a wreck in the ragbag, from which dreary poorhouse it was rescued by Beth, and taken to her refuge."

 Alcott goes on to write that the poor doll has no top “to its head” and “both arms and legs were gone, she hid these deficiencies by folding it in a blanket, and devoting her best bed to this chronic invalid.  Beth lavishes more love on this doll than on the others, and brings it “bits of bouquets,” reads to it, takes it for walks, “hidden under her coat,” and sings it lullabies, kissing “its dirty face, and whispering tenderly,” I hope you’ll have a good night, my poor dear."  Significantly, this doll is named Joanna.  Later, when Beth is terminally ill, Jo will care  for her as tenderly as Beth cared for the bedraggled Joanna.  As Phillips observes, none of Beth’s play is “orchestrated by Marmee: Beth chooses this activity, and her dedication to the dolls is supported by her sisters” with Jo making sure there is a clear path, even in winter, so that Beth can take Joanna on her daily walks (408).  Doll play suits the nurturing Beth, who is, ironically the most motherly of all the sisters, though she will never experience motherhood herself.

Alcott herself tried at one point to support her family as a dolls dressmaker, reportedly chasing the neighbor’s chickens for feathers with which to decorate fancy doll hats (See review of McDonough’s "The Life of Louisa May Alcott."

Doll dressmakers were needed because by about 1870, little girls would have more dolls than their mother and aunts would have had.  Anne K. Phillips writes of the last part of "Little Women", that “Later in the novel, Meg’s children Daisy and Demi are depicted as having more plentiful and more diverse kinds of toys” including a cooking stove and a group of wooden bears. As families became more prosperous in the 1870s, the toy market grew and grew, and there were more store-bought toys available.  One sees the same effect in The Little House Books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  In the early books, Laura’s doll is a corncob, later replaced by a rag doll her mother makes, who is named Charlotte.  Mary has a rag doll, and both girls make paper dolls.  They use the ragbag to dress their dolls and make others out of twigs and dolls’ teacups out of acorn caps.  Later, Nellie Olsen of a more prominent family has a china doll and an expensive wax doll, and Grace, Laura’s baby sister, has a china headed doll as well.

Of course, Beth also had three older sisters and Alcott is clear that her dolls are castoffs in derelict shape. Anne K. Phillips writes that according to Miram Formanek Brunell in "Made to Play House".  “Though the number of toys had increased since the colonial period, there were still few dolls around in the average middle-class household in the 1850s, a fact of doll demography that would change dramatically only after the Civil War."   Phillips also quotes Formanek-Brunell for the idea that Joanna ‘s torso-like state exemplifies Jo’s, and other girls’ aggression towards their toys. There is  also a doll burning in "Little Men". Actually, there were many doll parts and heads sold, as well as patterns in "Godey’s"  and other magazines for making dolls and dolls’ clothes.  Dickens, writing somewhat earlier, creates Jenny Wren because there were indeed many shops for making dolls and clothes, many run by women. Young girls led respectable lives making dolls, either in family businesses a la Kestner, or the wood doll artists of Thuringia, or in groups sheltered by doll makers like Jumeau and Bru in France. Cloth dolls and handmade dolls of  all types populated millions of households during the era Alcott wrote, even lower middle-class houses.

 See, Wendy Lavitt's, "American Folk Dolls", and Coleman’s, "The Encyclopedia of Dolls",

Volumes I and II.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Holocaust Education Committee


Authors, exhibits, Holocaust specialists and dramatic presentations are provided to schools, libraries, churches and other community venues through grants and collaboration with community groups.

Since 1993, Holocaust institutes and workshops have been offered to Quad City educators, students and community members.  Institutes are scheduled in the fall of odd-numbered years.

The Jeff Leibovitz Special Collection, housed at the Western Illinois University Quad City Campus in Moline, provides access to over a thousand resources, including sets of traveling curriculum cases focused on Making a Difference, Rescuers and Resisters, and Diaries and Memoirs. 

The Ida Kramer Children and the Holocaust Essay Contest and the Meyer and Frances Shnurman Holocaust Visual Arts Contest are open to students in grades 7-12.  Submissions are due annually on February 1.

Applications for the Rauch Foundation Teacher Scholarship, from $200 to $2,000, are due annually on April 1 or October 1 to support professional development.  The scholarship covers expenses for travel, housing, and/or registration for conferences, workshops or tours.
Youth, 18 years old or younger, interview, research, write and illustrate a 10-page book about a Holocaust survivor, liberator or rescuer.  
Promoting a higher awareness of the Holocaust as a unique historical event with universal implications for today

WEBSITE: www.hecqc.org

Friday, November 4, 2016

Dr. Disnarda Norniella, My Teacher, Boss, Mentor, Second Mom, As Excellent a Woman as you can Get

Dr. Disnarda V. Norniella

Dr. Disnarda V. Norniella
October 31, 1926 - August 13, 2016
Byron, GA- Dr. Disnarda V. Norniella, also known as "Desi" to those closest to her, transitioned into eternal life with God on Saturday, August 13, 2016. She was 89.
Disnarda was born in 1926 in Suluetas, Cuba to the late Francisco Valdés and Francisca Aurelia Perdomo de Valdés. She graduated from the University of Havana in Havana, Cuba earning a Ph. D. in education and an M.A. in comparative literature from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Dr. Norniella began her teaching career as a missionary teacher at the Presbyterian Day School in Encrucijada, Cuba. In 1961, she and her husband, Orlando, and their two children immigrated to the United States as Political Refugees. She taught at San Angelo College in San Angelo, Texas, Bennet College in Greensboro, North Carolina, and Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois. Dr. Norniella retired in 1991 from Augustana College.
In addition to her parents, she is also preceded in death by her husband, Orlando Eladio Norniella; and brothers, Arnaldo B. Valdés and Chris Valdés. 
Those who are here to carry on her memory are: her children, Edith N. Norniella of Byron and son, Joaquin O. Norniella (Bonnie) of Kenosha, Wisconsin; grandchildren, Derrick Norniella of Kenosha, Wisconsin and Holly Norniella of Jacksonville, Florida; great-grandchildren, Briana Allen and Isabella Norniella; as well as eight nieces and nephews. 
The family will receive friends at McCullough Funeral Home in Warner Robins on Wednesday, August 17, 2016 from 5:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. A religious service will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, August 18, 2016 at Houston Lake Presbyterian Church in Kathleen. Following the service, Disnarda will be laid to rest in Parkway Memorial Gardens.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in memory of Disnarda Norniella to Houston Lake Presbyterian Church Building Fund, 101 O'Brien Drive, Kathleen, GA 31047.
Friends may go to www.mcculloughfh.com to sign an online registry for the family and to view the memorial video once it has been finalized. McCullough Funeral Home has the privilege of being entrusted with Dr. Norniella's arrangements.

View the online memorial for Dr. Disnarda V. Norniella

Funeral Home

McCullough Funeral Home
417 South Houston Lake Road Warner Robins, GA 31088
(478) 953-1478