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Vol. 9, No. 1: Spring 2003

Front Porch: Spring 2003

by Harry L. Watson

“If you’ve never thought of yin and yang as southern symbols, maybe you will now.”

There used to be a kind of rag doll you could find in playrooms and on display in the homes of whimsical southern collectors. The one I remember clearest belonged to the only female doctor I knew and sat on a kitchen shelf beside the cookbooks. At first glance (depending on the owner’s mood, that is) it appeared to depict a conventional white maiden with blond braids, a muslin frock, and a rosebud simper that gave no hint of mystery. But if you peered beneath her hems, a prying child would find an upside down torso, with head and arms where the feet should be. If you flipped the skirt entirely over the white doll’s head, a black doll emerged, clad in an equally conventional head wrap, apron, and gingham work dress. Some versions gave a purse or bouquet to the white doll and a wooden spoon to her black counterpart, underscoring the social roles of each. Together, the two represented maid and mistress, literally joined at the hip.

This article appears as an abstract above, the complete article can be accessed in Project Muse
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