Saturday, October 25, 2008


My grandmother, Nana Laura, was an avid doll and teddybear collector. Her living space on the top floor of our home was filled with Madame Alexander dolls and Steiff teddybears. When I was about 12 years old we met Madame Alexander for the first time when she visited FAO SCHWARZ. She was very impressive and the first successful business woman I ever met.
Years later, after Nana Laura had gone to that great doll club in the sky, I would loan her collection to FAO SCHWARZ when Madame Alexander made an appearance. Over the years we had many wonderful conversations.
In 1952, I became a Creative Director for Helena Rubinstein cosmetics. She was known as Madame Rubinstein after she married a Russian prince. From time to time I found myself in the company of both these business "Madames" and was fascinated by their interaction as two women who had made it in "a man's world."
While the public perception of businesses like dolls and cosmetics might have been that they were the natural domain of women, that was not the case. Actually, very few women had important positions in either world. Alexander and Rubinstein were exceptions rather than the rule and both had to fight to maintain their positions.
What I learned from both of them was the importance of a clear vision of what they each wanted from their business. What their concept was. And both had very clear concepts.
I never got to know Sasha Morgenthaler but from what I have read, and what those who knew her have told me, she had a very clear vision of what she wanted from her dolls. What message they would carry out into the world.
At first glance, one might think that there is a vast difference between the Alexander dolls and the Sasha dolls -- there isn't. The message of both these creative women was basically the same -- children are universal the world over. They come in every skin color and while their costumes may vary, their hearts do not. They all laugh and they all cry and they all play.
Even Rubinstein shared that vision when she said, "All women can be beautiful." She created cosmetics that were intended to make women feel better about themselves -- more confident and successful.
Those of us old enough to remember the world of the 1940s and 50s understand how extraordinary these women were and how progressive their thinking was. Years before the Civil Rights movement Madame Alexander had dolls of every skin color from every nation. Sasha was making dolls that reflected the same universality.

The photos are of Madame Alexander and the FAO Schwarz buyer and some of Nana Laura's doll collection. And me.