Women of Valor

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A Shrewd Businesswoman

Beatrice Alexander, 1895 - 1990

In the mid-1920s, realizing she needed someone she trusted to help her manage the firm, Alexander asked her husband to quit his job. Philip was nervous about making the family's entire financial future dependent on an unproven business, but Beatrice threatened to divorce him if he refused. "I meant it," she later asserted. "It seem[ed] to me I [could] always get another man." Philip finally agreed and worked alongside his wife until his death in 1966.

By the late 1920s, Beatrice had taken on a new identity as "Madame" Alexander. Although accounts differ as to how she received the designation "Madame," the name appealed to her longstanding dreams of refinement and sophistication. It also heightened the sense of elegance that already surrounded Alexander's high-quality dolls.

Just as it was finally getting on its feet, the Alexander Doll Company faced another difficult hurdle: the Great Depression. Enough people found that the fantasy world of dolls provided an escape from the adversity of the time, however, that the business survived, and even began to thrive.

Alexander had a keen instinct for what would increase the sale of her dolls. In 1933, she pioneered the practice of movie tie-ins, reissuing her Alice in Wonderland and Little Women dolls to coincide with film versions of the books. Her greatest movie coup occurred in 1936, when she created a Scarlett O'Hara doll that looked just like Vivian Leigh, two years before Leigh auditioned for "Gone With the Wind."

Alexander also kept a sharp eye on public events for potential models. When the world's first surviving quintuplets were born in Ontario, Canada, in 1934, she knew immediately that Dionne quint dolls would be wildly popular, and the Alexander Doll Company quickly secured the license to produce them. The Company followed the children as they grew, and it was these dolls that truly brought Alexander Doll to the forefront of the toy world.

Notes: 
  1. Quote beginning "I meant it...." cited in Krystyna Poray Goddu, "A Personal Profile: Madame Alexander," Dolls: The Collector's Magazine, November 1988: 60.
  2. Information about development of Alexander Doll Company from Stephanie Finnegan, et. al., Madame Alexander Dolls: An American Legend (Portfolio Press, 1999).

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Women of Valor - Beatrice Alexander - A Shrewd Businesswoman." (Viewed on April 19, 2014) <http://jwa.org/womenofvalor/alexander/shrewd-businesswoman>.