In the 1800s, the Mattel toy company made a set of dolls based on historical women. However, the dolls did not go over well with the public because the company did not select the most respected and inspiring women of the time. Instead, many of the women had dishonorable and disreputable pasts.
The set included a Lizzie Borden doll, the Lizzie Borden who gave her mother 40 whacks.
Others in the series included confederate spy Mary Surratt, dance hall girl and prostitute Mary Katherine "Big Nose Kate" Haroney, outlaw Belle Starr, Butch Cassidy’s girlfriend and, later, Harry Longabaugh’s (the Sundance Kid) wife, Etta Place, and Eleanor Dumont, the owner of a gambling house in Nevada City, Nevada.
Pictured at the right: Mattel's Lizzie Borden doll.
Emmett Lee Dickinson (Emily Dickinson's third cousin, twice removed -- at her request) was a critic of the dolls, and he wrote about the Lizzie Borden doll in his poem "So baffled when I spied her."
Pictured below: Mattel's new series of Barbie dolls based on historical figures. Left to right: Vicky Martin Berrocal, Xiaotong Guan, Bindi Irwin, Sara Gama, Chloe Kim, Martyna Wojciecowska, Nicola Adams OBE, Yuan Yuan Tan, Patty Jenkins, Emily Dickinson, Hui Ruoqi, and Leyla Piedayesh. Info about the new dolls can be found HERE.
We suspect that Dickinson's poem "So baffled when I spied her" (below on the left) did not inspire Mattel to include a doll of Emily Dickinson in the set; however, his poem did inspire third cousin Emily to pen her poem "So bashful when I spied her" (below on the right).
By Emmett Lee Dickinson:
So baffled when I spied her!
So addled – so alarmed!
So stricken were her features,
Doth everybody find –
So breathless when I passed her –
So senseless that I turned
And saw her, scowling, gazing,
Her simple package spurned!
For whom they made this Barbie?
For whom they made this Doll?
Many, will doubtless buy one –
But I shall not at all!
By Emily Dickinson:
So bashful when I spied her!
So pretty – so ashamed!
So hidden in her leaflets,
Lest anybody find –
So breathless till I passed her –
So helpless when I turned
And bore her, struggling, blushing,
Her simple haunts beyond!
For whom I robbed the Dingle –
For whom betrayed the Dell –
Many, will doubtless ask me –
But I shall never tell!