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Dolls Reflect Kennedy Presidency


A collection of more than 70 dolls from around the world has gone on display in Washington D.C. All of them once belonged to Caroline Kennedy, daughter of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline. As VOA's George Dwyer reports, these artifacts from a brief moment in American history tell us something about the U.S., but much about the rest of the world as well.

Pictured to the right is a home movie frame from March 1963 showing America's 35th president and his wife Jacqueline Kennedy with their two young children: John John, age 3, and Carolyn, then age 6. Just eight months after these scenes were taken, America's youngest-elected president would be assassinated, and the Kennedy years in the White House would, suddenly and tragically, be history.

But the Decatur House Museum in Washington is recalling the Kennedy years in an exhibit featuring Carolyn Kennedy's White House doll collection.

Katherine Malone-France is Director of Collections at Decatur House. She says the artifacts on display here can be looked at from a variety of perspectives. "The dolls in this collection were given to Caroline Kennedy by both private citizens and world leaders," says Malone-France. "They are also more than dolls. In each case they have a lot to say about the cultures from which they come."

Among the more than 70 dolls on display here are dolls from Austria and Poland, Indonesia and Japan, Greece, and Norway, and a Girl Scout doll from Canada (pictured right). Each and every doll here has a unique story behind it.

"One of the most interesting dolls in the collection is the Pathan doll that you see here,” says Malone-France about the doll pictured on the left. “In March of 1962, first lady Jacqueline Kennedy went to both India and Pakistan in one trip. While she was in Pakistan she went to Peshawar and then was taken to the Khyber Pass.

"When she returned to Peshawar she was given this doll. The Pathans, of course, were living in southern Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan. She was given this doll by the children of the American community in Peshawar, Pakistan."

Also on display is the playhouse bought for Caroline Kennedy by Jacqueline de Gaulle, wife of French President Charles de Gaulle, and presented to the presidential couple on their 1961 visit to Paris.

"It says Caroline on the front and it has a little window with a flower box and polka dotted curtains and roses on the other side. And it was placed in Caroline Kennedy's bedroom at the White House and then, I understand that, it was used by her children as well."

Jacqueline Kennedy, who died in 1994, was the guiding force in assembling this collection. Now, once again -- for the first time in more than 40 years -- it has come back to Washington, D.C.

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