Who has never had a rag doll? Their softness and easy production have made them perfect to be a first toy to give to the little ones since immemorial times to comfort them and to teach them to take care of the others. In past times this teaching was something relegated exclusively to girls but, fortunately, today it is more extended to both sexes with demonstrable benefits, like boosting self-steem and developing creativity and emphaty.
Its exact antiquity is difficult to date, because being such an easy item to make it could be made with perishable materials that haven't survived to this day, but Egyptian and Roman dolls made from papyrus or rags have been found in children's tombs.
Many civilizations since mankind wear knitted clothes made this type of dolls for their children, in some cases even for rituals with magical purposes, or even for more adult purposes but the thing is that these kind of dolls are object of thousands and thousands of stories. Funny thing is that in the 90s, Barbie took inspiration from rag dolls and became, in part, one of them.
Designed to comfort the little ones, the first edition, Bedtime Barbie, was available in African American and Caucasian versions, it had a soft body with a soft nightdress and matching slippers and vinyl arms, neck and head with a long and full mane not very practical to clean. The makeup was heat-sensitive and made the effect of eyes open or closed when applied hot or cold water. This attribute was preserved for the second edition, Slumber Party, with pajamas, much less hair, and more suitable to withstand night accidents. It could also be found in a caucasian and african-american version but this time was accompanied by her friends Midge and Teresa and included luminescent stars and a transparent plastic cover to carry the doll to slumber parties with friends, as suggested by marketing, on vacation or to gramps home.
Prototypes of soft Disney princesses would be made that did not reach commercialization and in 2002 the last Barbie with the rag body was launched, Dreamglow. They erased the heat-sensible makeup and included pajamas, a lamp and luminescent stars to match her highlights in two pigtails. Again she could be found in a caucasian and african-american version with her friend Teresa, but Teresa still had her mold from the 90s on the contrary that the caucasian Barbie version that would change her Superstar mold for Generation Girl and the african-american version who was represented by the Asha mold from the Shani line instead of the New Christie of '88.
And it is that although "the girls wanted to play to be older girls" as Ruth Handler said, in the end, children and adults need to be comforted in the darkness of the night