Special to CNN
Madame Alexander was one of the great innovators in the doll industry.
According to the company that bears her name, she made the first doll with moving eyelids, the first doll based on a licensed character (Scarlett O'Hara from Gone with the Wind), the first doll fashioned after a living person (Queen Elizabeth) and many others.
But what's most interesting is how and why the company got started.
Beatrice Alexander's father owned the first doll "hospital" in New York City, where broken porcelain dolls were sent to be repaired. That got her thinking. Maybe porcelain wasn't the best material for a doll. So she sat around her kitchen table with her four sisters, and they started a business sewing dolls out of cloth.
Theirs were not the only cloth dolls (Raggedy Anne was already popular), but they created a Red Cross doll, a smart choice so soon after World War I. She put all the dolls in a big suitcase and lugged them around to local mom and pop stores where she made small sales.
No bank would lend to her; she was a 20-something woman in the early 1900s, a poor risk. So she scraped together what she could and just started. Eventually, she found someone who was willing to loan her $1,600, which she paid back in half the time she was allotted.
After four years of dragging that suitcase door to door, she got her first big break: a big sale to FAO Schwarz.
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