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The Milwaukee WPA Doll Unit
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Sally Danielson with Little Black Sambo Doll
Betty O'Sullivan's niece, Sally, with Little Black Sambo Doll. Photo taken about 1940.

The dolls were fun to play with but had an educational value too. They were designed for use in WPA-sponsored nursery schools. The director of Milwaukee's nursery school program requested soft but durable dolls that could be used to teach children how to dress. The project's design team met the challenge. Their dolls could sit and stand, and had flexible arms and legs. Each doll came with an outfit, and additional clothing could be purchased. The clothes had large buttons and snaps that were easy for small hands to open and close.

The dolls were a huge success. Eventually, nursery schools and other institutions across the country were ordering the dolls.