"I get mixed reviews," says Little Village resident Maggie Chavez, when people see her collection of nearly 200 Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls. Some are amazed at how many she has, but a lot of people just find them "terrifying." Not Chavez: "I think they're beautiful."
She started her collection five years ago, when she saw a doll in a resale shop. She was struck by its pretty dress and hair, and recalled the Raggedy Ann she played with as a kid back in the 70s.
But now she doesn't play with the dolls, and she wouldn't let a little kid play with them either. "They're too valuable to me," she says, to let someone accidentally make them more raggedy. She does, however, take them out occasionally to brush their hair and wash their clothes.
As far as collections go, seeking out Raggedy Anns is pretty affordable. Chavez can often find them for $1.98 at resale shops; the most she's ever paid for one was $39. When she searches for new dolls, she keeps an eye out for new dresses or hair patterns, so that every doll she has is slightly different. They all share the same red-yarn hair, simple smile, and triangle nose.
Raggedy Ann has been around since 1915, when Johnny Gruelle, a children's book illustrator from Arcola, Illinois, made a rag doll for his daughter Marcella. He began selling dolls and wrote a book called Raggedy Ann Stories, where, like in Toy Story, they came to life after their owner leaves the room. Ann even became the symbol of the antivaccination movement when Marcella died after getting a smallpox shot. Despite the doll's long history, Chavez hasn't met any other collectors.
Raggedy Ann was the first doll Chavez ever had, and she played with it until her family moved and the doll was lost. Other people may find them creepy, but those she collects remind her of those happy times.
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