All Dolled Up: Polly and Her Sisters Exhibition Showcases Moravian Doll Traditions

Nov 10th, 2015Press Release from Historic Bethlehem Museums and Sites

BETHLEHEM, PA— Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites announces its exhibition of All Dolled Up: Polly & Her Sisters, a new temporary exhibit coming to the Moravian Museum of Bethlehem, opening November 16, 2015 and running through March 31, 2016.

The exhibition will showcase original Moravian cloth dolls alongside assorted doll furniture and clothing. Visitors will also learn about the Moravian women and how the dolls were made to benefit Church causes.

These highly sought, handmade dolls in the collection include the Polly Heckewelder cloth doll, made by the Moravian Ladies’ Sewing Society of Central Moravian Church since 1872; the Anna Nitschmann portrait doll, made by the Busy Workers Society of Central Moravian Church since 1953; and the benefit dolls, Becky Langley and Countess Benigna, formerly made by Edgeboro Moravian and First Moravian (now Advent Moravian) Churches, respectively.

The exhibition will also discuss the lives of the women who started these societies as well as the societies who still make these dolls today. Visitors will learn about Polly Heckewelder, the daughter of a Moravian missionary couple who lived in Ohio in the 1780s; Anna Nitschmann, founder of the Moravian Single Sisters’ Choir; Countess Benigna, founder of the Girls’ School.

The collection will reveal the history of the Ladies’ Sewing Society, founded by Polly Heckewelder in order to make bandages for wounded soldiers during the Civil War. After the conclusion of the war, the Ladies’ Sewing Society stayed together and began making dolls inspired by the doll given to Polly by a Native American woman years earlier. These dolls remain the oldest continuously made cloth dolls in America.

At various times during the sixth-month exhibit, members of the Sewing Society and the Busy Workers Society will hold demonstrations of the making of the Polly and Anna dolls. In February, a tea will be held for guests to bring their Polly dolls and share their stories.

To learn more about All Dolled Up: Polly & Her Sisters and the Moravian Museum of Bethlehem or to plan a tour of the Moravian Museum, visit or call 1-800-360-TOUR.

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