Door of Hope Mission Dolls

Wooden Door of Hope Amah with child dolls

p4A ItemID D9699100
A wooden Door of Hope Amah doll

p4A ItemID D9699098
A Chinese female Door of Hope doll

p4A ItemID D9668323
A Chinese Door of Hope Mission baby doll

p4A ItemID E8993065

Door of Hope Mission Dolls

By Thomas P. Heinecke, Ohio representative

Carved pear wood dolls with hand-painted details dressed mostly in period Chinese working class garb, originating from the Door of Hope Christian Mission in Shanghai, China, about 1900 to 1935.

The Door of Hope Mission in Shanghai was established around 1900 with the goal of providing young underprivileged women and girls the marketable skills necessary to support themselves. Some of these skills, specifically knitting and embroidery, were applied to the making of doll clothing. Central to the Door of Hope theme, unlike many of their period contemporaries, was the desire to instill in their pupils a sense of cultural pride and heritage. Because of this adherence to Chinese culture and dress, the dolls and their authentic costumes reflect accurately the change in Chinese fashion and customs during the period of their making.

Missionaries employed local carvers to provide wooden hands and heads for the dolls, the latter with simple yet realistic and expressive features. Pear wood worked well for this purpose due to its durability as a hardwood and light grain. Door of Hope pupils assembled and dressed the dolls, often taking a month to complete a single doll.

Approximately 26 different doll characters were made as production continued to the mid-1930s and ceased with the Japanese invasion of Shanghai in 1937. Early dolls are considered slightly more realistic having small slanted eyes and bound feet, a Chinese custom of the early 20th century intended to retard growth and produce small adult feet as a sign of beauty. The Bride and Bridegroom characters consistently command the highest prices.

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