Expecting the Best
Beatrice Alexander, 1895 - 1990
Alexander managed her business with meticulous care. As the Company expanded, she maintained the high standards she had set for her sisters when they sewed the first Red Cross Nurse. "If a child plays with a doll put together poorly," she said, "dressed with pins and poor stitching, she is apt to...become a woman who reaches for a pin instead of a needle in later life."
"You never knew when she would suddenly get it into her head to take a walk on the factory floor," says Alexander's long-time secretary. "I guess you could say she was conducting spot inspections. She demanded the best from everyone who worked beside her because she demanded the best of herself.... If she saw lace on a hem that seemed to be frayed or uneven, she would complain and demand that it be fixed immediately. It wasn't nit-picking; she was the quality control of the whole company." The care with which Alexander oversaw operations ensured that her dolls always retained their reputation for quality. She maintained the same exacting attention to detail in all of her business endeavors.
Alexander was a demanding employer, but she was also fair. Long-time employee Greta Schrader remembers her as direct and to-the-point—she "called a spade a spade"—but also as polite, amenable to suggestion, and truly caring about her workers. Her employees worked year-round, unlike those at other doll factories, and Alexander paid bonuses twice a year. Despite the lower labor costs abroad, she was adamant at keeping production in the United States; by the 1980s, hers was the only American doll company that did not manufacture any part of its dolls outside the country. Alexander was also committed to the local community, making significant contributions to local organizations and refusing to leave her Harlem location. Her workers rewarded her with loyalty, some over several generations.
- Quote beginning "If a child plays...." cited in Jo Elizabeth Gerken, "Madame, We Thank You," newspaper clipping from Archives of Alexander Doll Company, Inc.
- Quote beginning "You never knew..." cited in Stephanie Finnegan, et. al., Madame Alexander Dolls: An American Legend (Portfolio Press, 1999), 16.
- Conversation with Greta Schrader, Alexander Doll Company, Inc., May 8, 2000.
- Information about employment practices from John Axe, "Exclusive Doll Reader Interview with Madame Alexander," Doll Reader, April 1984: 89; John Axe, "Doll Reader Interview at the Alexander Doll Company Factory," Doll Reader, November 1983: 100; Sandi Cushman, "They're real dolls, and you can't beat that these days," Daily News, November 5, 1974.