Last year, I stumbled across a new set of dolls that I instantly fell in love with. As an historical clothing designer, the beautiful faces and graceful figures of the “A Girl for All Time” dolls were the first things that caught my eye. I am not one to be smitten by outward appearances alone, however, and for me to truly love a doll I need to connect with it at a deeper level. Dolls are unlike most toys in that they have an innate charm that stirs the imagination to give them unique personalities. Like people, however, their personalities begin to take shape in the hands of their creators. Facial expressions, posture, and other design features are an integral part in establishing a dolls character. However, “A Girl For All Time” took their dolls to an even higher level by giving each one its own personal story set in a period of English history. The stories themselves reveal a far deeper connection in that the dolls are all descendants from a long family line in which a precious family heirloom is passed from one generation to the next… an heirloom that raises a lot of questions and contains many answers. What a perfect scenario for country with such a long and rich history to explore. I was hooked. These dolls were not only beautiful and wonderfully crafted, but they had a history and a personality that I could connect with and explore.
Frances Cain, the owner of Daughters of History Ltd. and brainchild behind the “A Girl For All Time” dolls and stories, grew up in the Midwestern state of Illinois. There, she and her mother dreamed of one day seeing the world outside of America’s heartland. It took years of saving, but when Frances was 15 they traveled to Europe where she got to see places like Anne Frank’s House in Amsterdam, the Colosseum in Rome, and Big Ben in London. It was a life changing experience and she was determined that one day she would return. Shortly after her marriage, she and her husband moved overseas expecting their stay to last only 18 months… but they never managed to get on a plane back home. They lived in the Netherlands for two years before settling in London where they have lived ever since. After 20 years, they have come to regard London as their home, although she assures me her accent is still very much American. Before beginning her career as a full-time mom… or “mum” as she refers to herself (I do believe a little of the accent has taken hold), Frances worked as a Director in Specialized Event Management which allowed her explore many historic sites in London. Through her work, she gained a deep appreciation for the rich history of her newly adopted home. Her favorite thing about living there is that it is like living alongside history; the past is an integral part of modern life in Britain. Imagine attending a school that had been founded over 400 years ago by Queen Elizabeth I’s cousin or traveling everyday on a road that was an ancient Roman thouroghfare.
The inspiration for A Girl For All Time dolls began when Frances discovered a lack of intelligent and sophisticated toys for her growing daughter. Understanding that girls as social beings thrive on social play, Frances wanted something that challenged and encouraged creativity while celebrating femininity in an intelligent way. Following her inspiration, she spent the next nine months researching and developing the concept and mapping out the character’s she wanted to produce. It was a long and ardous process that required someone with a very stubborn streak to see it through. What a great reminder to embrace and shape that stubborn streak in your three-year-old when it starts to get the best of you! Tapping into the skills she had honed in her previous work experience, she began organizing a creative team and searching for top notch manufacturers. It was two years before the first doll was ready, but with the support of her husband, her resolve was kept up by taking it one step at a time. The end result has been a beautiful line of award winning dolls, with novels and keepsake books that encourage girls to explore the past while enjoying a host of challenging and creative activities.
To date, there are three “A Girl For All Time” dolls. Matilda Marchmont starts off the series as a handmaid in King Henry VIII’s court. It is her treasure box that becomes the heirloom that gets passed on from generation to generation. Amelia comes from further down the Marchmont line in 1880 England. When she inherits the treasure box, she discovers all the special keepsakes each of her ancestors have passed down to her… you just know there is a story behind each one! Clementine,the newest addtion to the collection, just came out last fall and will be giving us a glimpse of what life was like in England during WWII. There are many other girls in the Marchmont family line just waiting to tell their stories, I wonder if any will ever take a trip to America or any other parts of the world?
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