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When We Are Young

Golliwog Doll

19th Century

The golliwog was a black character in children's books in the late 19th century usually depicted as a type of rag doll . It was reproduced, both by commercial and hobby toy-makers as a children's toy called the "golliwog", and had great popularity in Europe and Australia into the 1970s. The doll is characterised by black skin, eyes rimmed in white, clown lips and frizzy hair. While home-made golliwogs were sometimes female, the golliwog was generally male. For this reason, in the period following Worls War II, the golliwog was seen, along with the teddy bear, as a suitable soft toy for a young boy.


The image of the doll has become the subject of heated debate. While some see the golliwog as a cherished cultural artifact and childhood tradition, others argue that the golliwog is a destructive instance of racism against people of African descent.

The Dick Institute
Digital Number:
East Ayrshire Council