One of the first Sigma traditions we learn about as new members is the doll collection at the Mabel Lee Walton House. Most of us know that each chapter has a unique doll, dressed according to the style from the time the chapter was colonized. Less of you likely know what your chapter’s doll looks like, and even fewer have ever seen your doll. The dolls are one of the most unique traditions of our sorority, and celebrate the individuality and history of each chapter. The National Archives Committee recognizes the importance of these dolls, and hopes to restore, preserve, and properly display them so that everyone who visits Walton House can see their chapter’s colonization represented beautifully.
Since preserving the dolls is one of our biggest tasks at the MLW House, the Archives Committee wanted to find out a little more about them. We surveyed women who were members of colonies, most from 2000-2012, to hear what they remembered about choosing an outfit for their doll and found some interesting trends. Multiple sisters said they remember just trying to find something they would all wear to class—casual clothing with common accessories such as Alpha Omicron’s Starbucks cup, and others wanted to showcase their geographic location, such as Zeta Epsilon’s Miami, Florida inspired swimsuit! Each story revealed something special about each the chapter, demonstrating the varied personalities of Tri Sigma women around the country.
Greta Ertzgard, historian at the time of Alpha Delta’s re-chartering, explained how their doll’s outfit was chosen to represent their school and its locale. The doll is dressed in a leather jacket and black dress to match the Philadelphia fashion of the time, with a Drexel University “Welcome Back Week” pin attached to show some university pride.
Alpha Omicron did pick an everyday outfit for their doll, the mini skirt and polo reflecting the popular 2008 style. But Desiree Paulhamus, AO, also gave a good tip: their chapter chose to make two identical dolls – one for the Walton House, and one for their chapter room.
Michelle Hallet, Epsilon Eta, shared her chapter’s attempt to imitate their chapter’s president by obtaining a doll with red hair. She remembers trying to cut it to make it spiky was difficult, especially since they were so “crazy trying to do all that was necessary for the chapter installation”!
You may not know it just by looking at it, but Theta Gamma’s doll was dressed with a lot of symbolism. Caitlyn Westfall, Theta Gamma, revealed how their doll tells the unique history of her chapter through her clothing. The doll wears pearls as Sigma’s jewel, and a purple gown with beads and feathers to represent the Tri Sigma and McKendree University colors. The Tri Sigma Colony paid homage to the legacy of their local sisterhood at McKendree through the feathers. The original interest group referred to themselves as “Sisters Without A Name,” or SWAN, and adopted a swan mascot.
These stories are just a brief glimpse into the history behind the many dolls stored at the Walton House. The Archives Committee hopes to uncover more about the dolls and other aspects of our history and traditions over the coming months. If you have information about your doll, please fill out our survey! Unfortunately at this time, we cannot fulfill requests to send digital images of dolls to chapters or individuals, but we hope to have images online soon! To keep updated with our progress, watch for more Archives blog posts, and follow us on Twitter @TriSigmaArchive. Contact Liz Johns, Archivist, at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.