For most, the brother and sister team of Raggedy Ann & Andy remain nostalgic memories of the innocence of American youth; two peach colored rag dolls with old fashioned patriotic colored outfits and a head full of red yarned hair. For some, images of Raggedy Ann & Andy remind them of the many adventures, mysteries and beautiful places that were found in between the pages of their famous books penned by Raggedy Ann creator himself Johnny Gruelle. And for some, Raggedy Ann alone stands out as a symbolic representation of the anti-vaccination movement in America during the late 1800’s.
History has it that writer Johnny Gruelle created his fictional Raggedy Ann character in 1915 when his daughter, Marcella, brought him an old hand-made rag doll that he drew a face on. He came up with the name for this crafted doll from a combination of book titles by poet James Whitcomb Riley and soon after, introduced his red yarn haired doll to the public as Raggedy Ann in the 1918 book Raggedy Ann Stories. Tragically, Johnny’s daughter died at the tender age of 13 following a non-consented school vaccination for smallpox. Gruelle became an opponent of the vaccination, and the Raggedy Ann doll was soon adopted as a symbol of the anti-vaccination movement as a result. Til this day, the battle between vaccination supporters and opponents continues as increased awareness of the risk factors surrounding immunizations comes to light.
Now, when you stumble across an antique Raggedy Ann or Andy doll, read one of Johnny Gruelle’s timeless Raggedy Ann adventure books , maybe it won’t just be nostalgic memories and an affinity for red heads that speaks to your heart. Maybe, just maybe it will be a reminder of children like little Marcella and the quest for more holistic way of living for all of us.