Minikins Miss Dot Sr. and Miss Dot Jr. Return to Campus after a Half-Century

The University of Maryland is home once again to the minikins – the instructional tools developed in the early 1960s by professors in the College of Home Economics, Eileen Heagney and June Wilbur, along with businesswoman Dr. Dorothy S. Lyle.

The Dorothy S. Lyle, Eileen Heagney, and June Wilbur papers was recently donated by Adele Heagney, Eileen Heagney’s niece, and is now housed in the Historical Manuscripts unit of Special Collections and University Archives at the University of Maryland.  The collection consists of six notebooks of correspondence, publications, pamphlets, photographs and other promotional material for the minikins and well as various versions of the minikins and their fashion accessories.  The collection will be useful for researchers interested in women’s studies, fashion design, and the history of home economics and dry cleaning.


Minikins were developed to aid the teaching of sewing and fashion design in home economics classes and to promote the services of dry cleaners. Both “Miss Dot Jr.” (15 inches tall) and “Miss Dot Sr.” (32 inches tall), shown together below, were named after Lyle, who was Director of Consumer Relations for the National Institute of Drycleaning of Silver Spring, Maryland.

Made of latex, the minikins have elongated limbs, narrow waists, and breasts that seemingly require no support, features which resemble other interpretations of the female form that date to the mid-20th-century, like the better-known Barbie (created in 1959). Both Miss Dot Sr. and Jr. were only available in a single pink skin tone. However, for all the resemblances to other forms, the minikins were developed to reflect a “scientific” or proportional body configuration. Miss Dot Sr. was one-eighth of a standard woman’s size 16, at least by 1960s clothing sizes. Miss Dot. Jr. was said to be – however inaccurately – one-fifth the size of “a regular coed.”


A close-up of Miss Dot Sr., manufactured ca. 1963


Eileen Heagney, ca. 1940s. Image courtesy of Adele Heagney

The development of the idea for using minikins in classrooms dates at least to 1940-1941, when Eileen Heagney (born 1915) was herself a student. During a course on home economics at Penn State University, her teacher used small dolls to demonstrate the principles of fashion design. In December 1947, after graduating with the goal of becoming a fashion designer, Heagney started working at the Butterick Pattern Company, the design company founded during the Civil War as a purveyor of patterns and clothing supplies for homemakers. While in New York City, she edited versions of a book entitled Butterick New Sewing Book (1952) and Quick and Easy Sewing (1953).

By 1952 Heagney had taken a job as a professor in the College of Home Economics at the University of Maryland. Though large mannequins were on campus and used for draping, Heagney pushed for the use of minikins in the classroom and as a display model during the college’s open houses for prospective students. Either she or her department purchased three Butterick minikins, first displaying them during an open house on campus in May 1953. Students made great use of the three early minikins, but they fell out of favor as their arms loosened and fingers broke after several years of use.


A student uses a minikin- probably one of the Butterick minikins- in the pages of the 1959 edition of the Terrapin, the yearbook for the University of Maryland

Professor Heagney continued to utilize small-scale clothing design in various summer courses that she taught at the University in 1961 and 1962.

Dorothy S. Lyle’s visit to campus in January 1963 led to the birth of Miss Dot. Interested in learning more about the dolls, Lyle, then working to promote drycleaning on behalf of the National Drycleaning Institute (NID) in Silver Spring, met with Heagney to discuss purchasing minikins for a display at the convention of the NID in Washington, DC, in March 1963. The NID bought four minikins, with the hopes that drycleaners would see them as “point of sale display items.” The response was somewhat negative, though, as the models were “ugly in appearance and stance.” Lyle and Heagney hashed out a redesign of the minikins over hot fudge sundaes at the University Grill. Two months later, Miss Dot Sr. had been born. Standing 32 inches tall, Miss Dot Sr. was large and somewhat imposing, even if not a full size mannequin.


Heagney and Lyle hoped to create a minikin that was versatile, equally at home in a drycleaner’s window and useful for teaching pattern design. In Lyle’s words, Miss Dot Sr. “was created to be used for either a window, counter, or shadow-box display, or as a TV prop.”


Dr. Dorothy S. Lyle with the eponymous Miss Dot Sr. at a convention of the National Institute of Drycleaning. Photograph. Lyle, Heagney, and Wilbur papers, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Maryland Libraries

But the commercial and educational overlapped freely. The appearance of Miss Dot coincided with the revision of Lyle’s massive 500-page book, Focus on Fabrics, the foremost authority in the field of fabric selection and interior design. As early as November 1963, the College of Home Economics – which had over 600 undergraduate and graduate majors – was planning to offer a spring course on Advanced Textiles taught at the NID facility by Robert Graham, a member of NID (University of Maryland, College of Home Economics Communique, Vol. 1, 1963; Terrapin [yearbook], 1965, p. 68). During the mid-1960s, the University of Maryland was touted as offering “a strong fashion design program,” including courses by Heagney and June Wilbur, as well as summer courses taught by Lyle (Co-Ed, April 1966, p. 36).


From the 1965 Terrapin, the yearbook of the University of Maryland

Yet Miss Dot Sr. was not an overwhelming hit with the drycleaners, with whom the commercial success of the dolls ultimately lay. The 32-inch dolls were a bit fragile and their clothing was costly. Initially they were priced at $40 for a nude minikin and $245 for four outfits. Additionally, it was thought that smaller 15-inch minikins, would be more user-friendly to students, who had increasingly come to expect individualized educational experiences. As Dr. Lyle later commented, “We wanted her to be the type of young adult who could wear clothes well; the type of woman any co-ed might aspire to emulate; the type of woman who might bring out the best in a student of design” (Practical Forecast, April 1966, F-17). Thus, Miss Dot Jr. was born.


Miss Dot Jr. was introduced to the world in December 1965. Photograph. Lyle, Heagney, and Wilbur papers, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Maryland Libraries

By summer 1965, sales of the minikins began to climb, as NID had become a major direct-market distributor of minikins, which were manufactured by Ar-Tee Creations. Sold at $12.50 each for the nude minikin, or $35 with a gown included, Miss Dot Jr. was priced more reasonably than Miss Dot Sr.  Considering that NID had 10,000 member drycleaners in 1968, the sales potential was great.


Miss Dot Jr. in an evening gown, manufactured ca. 1964

The use of Miss Dot Jr. in the classroom was not without controversy. In the fall of 1965, the Head of the Department of Textiles and Clothing, Miss T. Faye Mitchell, questioned whether the minikins had been approved for use in Maryland classrooms, or whether they were a special pet project that had not been officially approved. Strong words, terse phone calls, and tense meetings ensued. Tensions escalated to the point where Dean Erna Chapman decided not to approve Lyle’s contract to teach Textiles 200, a course planned for the summer of 1966. In response, Dr. Lyle requested a meeting with R. Lee Hornbake, then Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University.


From the April 1966 issue of Co-Ed, a magazine published in connection with Practical Forecast

Further research may illuminate more about this “minikin controversy,” though it was undeniable by 1967 the minikins had achieved a level of popularity among educators. In October of that year, the Washington Post featured a picture of a University of Maryland student working on textiles with Miss Dot Jr. Other schools had adopted the techniques of small-scale fashion design, and many had purchased Miss Dot Jr. For instance, the Coleman Technical Institute in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, ordered 24 minikins for use in its post-secondary school classes. The Viscayas Agricultural College in the Philippines also showed interest. Moreover, Heagney, Wilbur, and Lyle attended the convention of the American Home Economics Association in Dallas, where they showcased Miss Dot Jr. in a major display for the benefit of the National Institute of Drycleaning.


A patterned design for the 15 inch Miss Dot Jr. Likely sewn in a University of Maryland class, 1965-1966

Though styles in fashion changed drastically by the end of the 1960s, professors Eileen Heagney and June Wilbur may have continued to utilize minikins in their courses at the University of Maryland during the 1970s. Even as greater numbers of women began to work outside the home and thus had less interest, need, or time for clothing design within the home, Heagney remained a professor of Textiles and Consumer Economics until her retirement in 1986, a year or two before the former College of Home Economics closed its programs completely.

The collection includes four intact original examples of Miss Dot Sr. and several intact Miss Dot Jrs. (on and off their stands), as well as numerous outfits of varying fabrics and designs, along with various accessories including wigs and jewelry. Come on and meet Miss Dot in the  Maryland Room of Hornbake Library!


Images not otherwise attributed were kindly taken by Edith Sandler, Severn Collections Coordinator, at the University of Maryland Libraries.

Dr. Eric C. Stoykovich is Historical Manuscripts Project Archivist in the University of Maryland’s Special Collections in Hornbake Library, where he works under the Curator on collections which tell the story of political officials and civic groups in the state of Maryland. He received his MLS from UMD’s iSchool and a PhD in American history from the University of Virginia. His interests include archival history, political development, and institutional change. 

Carpenters Union (UBCJA) Archives Now Fully Processed!

Carpenters1If you follow this blog you might remember a post about this time last year about a little exhibit we created with materials from the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America.

In the past year we have been hard at work processing the Carpenters collection, and we are happy to announce that the collection is now fully “processed.”  This means that the entire collection is now represented online via a finding aid (or guide) to the folders in the collection.

The UBCJA archives could not have been processed without generous support from the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (UBCJA).  The processing took over five years (2010-2016) to complete and represents the hard work of the following archivists:  Kristen G. Albert, Kate Aras, Elizabeth A. Novara (curator for the collection), and Maya Riser-Kositsky.  All of our hard work has paid off and all 602.75 linear feet and 247 items of the collection are now fully processed, arranged, and described in the online finding aid.  During the processing, materials were also selected for digitization and either digitized in house or sent to offsite vendors.

The collection has something for everyone – meeting minutes, biographical files on union officials, over 60 boxes of photographs, audio, film and more!   Material designated as “Online” in the box list of the finding aid is available in the UMD Libraries Digital Collections.  A few examples of the most notable digitally available items include: an almost complete run of The Carpenter , the Journeyman House Carpenters’ Association of Philadelphia Banner (1835), original charters of local unions, photographs of carpenters on the job, and nineteenth-century documents from the early days of the union.  So, take a look at the finding aid, discover something of interest to you, and then come on down to the Maryland Room and do some research in the collection!

And, our work is not yet complete.  We’re continuing to work on preserving deteriorating film materials and well as memorabilia (including convention badges and ribbons) in the collection.

If you have any questions, as always, don’t hesitate to contact us!


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Photograph from UMD Libraries Digital Collections:

United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America delegates at their Detroit fifth general convention, 1888. They carried the Journeyman House Carpenters’ banner at this event. The banner was used once more in public – at a labor parade in 1889 – before the UBCJA placed it in a glass-covered frame for safekeeping at their national headquarters. The banner was restored in the late 1990s and currently resides in Special Collections at the UMD Libraries.


LGBT Advocacy and the AFL-CIO

This June, city streets in America will bloom with colorful celebrations. Pride, this year, marks the 47th anniversary of Stonewall, and the first year since Obergefell v. Hodges. While most of those celebrating are no stranger to the struggle for equality, it can be easy to forget the struggle of the past and the struggles still needed today. Pride at Work, the AFL-CIO LGBT constituency group, and its members have been fighting for LGBT equality since before the organization was founded in 1994. Today, Pride at Work, along with the labor movement, continues the fight for LGBT rights and equality for all workers.

Pride at work is also celebrating its 22nd anniversary this month. On June 24th, 1994, LGBT union activists gathered in New York City to remember the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. In New York, this network of activists held “The Founding Conference of the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender People in the Labor Movement” creating the organization known today as Pride at Work. Three years later, in 1997, it became one of the seven official constituency groups of the AFL-CIO.

Last summer, Pride at Work donated a collection of records and objects including posters, t-shirts, correspondence, meeting minutes, speeches, and conference materials to the University of Maryland Special Collections and University Archives.  This donation compliments our many other Labor collections consisting of AFL-CIO Department records, trade department records, international union records, union programs, union organizations with allied or affiliate relationships with the AFL-CIO, and personal papers of union leaders.  Learn more about our Labor Collections here.

After months of work, we are proud to say that an inventory of the collection is complete and the collection is housed in Hornbake Library awaiting researchers and the public. Please contact us for details on how to access the collection.

The collection spans the history of the organization. One can dive into the collection and follow the organization’s development from a network of LGBT labor activists to the organization that exists today. You can also discover the full scope of work Pride at Work undertakes. In The Diamondback, Jerame Davis, executive director of Pride at Work, described the organization’s work saying that it “‘it focuses primarily on educating labor, LGBT issues and educating the LGBT community about labor issues.’” The collection truly reflects this mission. You can also find records related to P@W’s fight for domestic partnership benefits, work to fight discrimination and document hate crimes, you can read speeches delivered across the country and this world by Nancy Wohlforth,  retired OPEIU Secretary-Treasurer, P@W co-president, and member for the AFL-CIO board.

Our Labor Collections team invites you to come and discover what Pride at Work’s historic motto “an injury to one is an injury to all” looks like when put into practice.


Visit Alice 150 Years and Counting

‘I could tell you my adventures–beginning from this morning,’ said Alice a little timidly: ‘but it’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.’

If you haven’t visited Hornbake Library’s Alice 150 Years and Counting exhibit, you better hurry! Soon there will be no going back to yesterday. The exhibit will be open until the end of July, so be sure to visit (or re-visit!) while you can.


Can’t make it to Hornbake Library in person? Don’t worry, you can visit the online exhibit anytime!


Maryland Day 2016 in Special Collections

Special Collections and University Archives celebrated Maryland Day 2016 with crafting, coloring, croquet, and discovery! Among the activities we hosted in Hornbake Library were kid-friendly crafts like Color Your Own Terrapin, Color Characters from Alice in Wonderland, Perform Your Own Radio Advertisement, and Play a Game of Alice in Wonderland Croquet with flamingo mallets and hedgehogs- just like Alice!

Visitors also had an opportunity to discover more about Special Collections with activities highlighting our collections and exhibits. these included Meet the Real Testudo– the taxidermied terrapin who served as the model for the beloved statue located outside McKedlin Library, View Student Posters on UMD history, listen to the Alice in Wonderland audio book as they walked through out Alice 150 Years and Counting exhibit, and explore one of our newest collections- the Filipino American Community Archives.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by to make it a fun-filled day in Hornbake Library!


Join us for a Labor History Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon in Hornbake Library

flyer - laborwiki

Join a community interested in promoting labor history by editing the popular online encyclopedia Wikipedia. Part celebration and part workshop, Edit-a-Thons are organized around a single topic as a means to build awareness and community. We’ll draw content from labor-related collections at the University of Maryland, including the AFL-CIO Archives. No editing experience necessary, however participants should have basic computer skills. All participants will receive complimentary issues of Labor’s Heritage journal.

Heavy Metal Parking Lot and the Jeff Krulik Collection

When aspiring filmmakers Jeff Krulik and John Heyn visited the Capital Centre parking lot on May 31, 1986, they had little more in mind than to document a fan scene at full peak. What they ended up creating was a cult film now considered among the greatest rock documentaries of all time. Just under 17 minutes long, Heavy Metal Parking Lot features local heavy metal fans expressing their enthusiasm for Judas Priest before the band performed in concert that night. Thirty years later, the film continues to resonate with fans around the globe.

HMPL Judas Priest banner

The University of Maryland is proud to honor both the legacy of the film and that of its co-producer. Jeff Krulik, a lifetime Marylander and graduate of UMD (B.A. English, 1983), is an independent documentarian, videographer and cultural preservationist who has built a distinct career tapping into the rich ore of local culture in the Maryland/D.C. region. In 1996, the Washington Post noted that his esteemed documentaries “demonstrate a loving eye for Americana and eccentricity.”

Krulik, Maryland Alumni Magazine, Spring 2001, photo by John ConsoliThe Jeff Krulik Collection, acquired by Mass Media & Culture collections within the UMD Libraries’ Special Collections and University Archives in November 2015, includes research files and source tapes for more than a dozen documentaries, as well as photos, catalogs, magazines, guides, posters, ephemera and audiovisual materials that represent a lifetime fascination with the offbeat and unusual. The collection is currently being processed, and will be available to researchers within the next two years.

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Krulik’s most iconic film, the exhibit “Heavy Metal Parking Lot: The 30-Year Journey of a Cult Film Sensation”, opening next month in the Gallery at the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library, illustrates the film’s unexpected path from bootleg copies to international fame. Additional items from the Krulik Collection will also be on display.

Please join us for the opening reception in the the Pavilion of the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center on May 27 from 6-8:30pm. This lively event will feature short presentations by film scholars, a screening of the film and a Q&A session with Jeff Krulik and John Heyn.

Click here for more information.