"Frozen Charlotte" dolls provided cautionary tales to young women in the 19th century to prioritize health over fashion

Even the National Park System is getting in on the Barbie craze. The Minute Man National Historical Park in Lexington, Lincoln, and Concord, Massachusetts—site of the first armed conflict of the American Revolution that began on April 19, 1775—recently posted its own spin on Barbie, the "Creepy Catherine" doll:

We ken-not let the National Park Service have all the fun…

Have you met Minute Man's favorite doll, Creepy Catherine??

Catherine is a 1-inch tall Frozen Charlotte doll from the park's archeology collections. These dolls were popular toys in the 19th century. Why is she so creepy? Well for starters, just look at those hollow eye holes… and second, the backstory of these common dolls is bone-chilling. Legend has it that Catherine was like "let's go party!" and headed off to a winter ball. She didn't heed her mother's advice to wear a blanket (she didn't want to cover her 'fit) and thus froze to death on the ride to the party. Yikes. 

For more information on these creepy dolls, check out this article by our friends over at Fort Stanwix National Monument: https://www.nps.gov/articles/-frozen-charlotte.htm

Photo 1: A simple white ceramic doll on a multi-colored-pink background.

The Fort Stanwix National Monument, in New York, provides more information about "Frozen Charlotte" dolls:

"Frozen Charlotte" dolls are one piece dolls with bent arms and range in size from just 1 inch to over 18 inches. They were manufactured first in Germany and then later in Britain, and likely elsewhere, between 1850 and 1920. The name "Frozen Charlotte" was associated with the dolls once they were gaining in popularity. It is inspired by a folk ballad about "Young Charlotte" or "Frozen Charlotte" who froze to death while on a carriage ride to a winter's ball.

Excerpt from "Young Charlotte":

"The mother to her daughter said,
"These blankets round you fold;
For it is a dreadful night, you know,
You'll catch your death of cold.""Oh, no! Oh, no!" the darling cried,
She laughed like a gypsy queen,
"For to ride in blankets muffled up,
I never could be seen."

"Such a night as this I never knew,
My lines I scarce can hold."
With a trembling voice young Charlotte cried,
"I am exceeding cold."

"When they reached the inn,
young Charles jumped out,
And gave his hand to her,
"Why sit you there like a monument,
And have no power to stir?"
He called her once, he called her twice,
She answered not a word;
He called all for her hand again,
But still she never stirred."

The University of Maine's Maine Folklore Center explains that this folk ballad and the Frozen Charlotte dolls operated as cautionary tales for young women, who were "warned to listen to their parents' instructions and not to concern themselves with fashion over their health."

Read more about Frozen Charlotte dolls here. And read the full lyrics of the Young Charlotte ballad and hear Ernest Lord singing a rendition of the song here.