The “Baby Dolls”
Breaking the Race and Gender Barriers of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Tradition
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: Louisiana State University Press
Cover, Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quote
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PRELUDE: On Being an Example of Hope
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Mardi Gras maskers of the Baby Doll tradition began as a small group of determined, independent-minded Black Creole women of New Orleans who came together and rebelled against the many constraints they faced regarding social segregation and gender ...
FOREWORD: Black Storyville
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Black Storyville was the poor person’s version of the famed Storyville red-light district a short distance away, perhaps without the fine champagne. It was within walking distance to the French Quarter, the Central Business District, and Central City. The ordinance ...
INTRODUCTION: A New Orleans Mardi Gras Masking Tradition
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The popular New Orleans tradition of dressing up as a Baby Doll on Carnival Day had its origins around 1912. The Baby Dolls began as a kind of Carnival club for women who were working in the dance halls and brothels. These women worked and lived in what was ...
1. Gender, Race, and Masking in the Age of Jim Crow
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At the turn of the twentieth century, and well before, African Americans in New Orleans were barred by segregation from participating in White Mardi Gras balls and parades. African Americans were confined to servant-class activity in White krewes and ...
2. Women Dancing the Jazz
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The ties between the Million Dollar Baby Dolls and jazz musicians is complex, and much of this relationship remains unknown. What is known, however, is that these were women who “danced the jazz.”1 They improvised movements to the new rhythms and ...
3. “Oh You Beautiful Doll”: The Baby Doll as a National Sex Symbol in the Progressive Era
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Songs celebrating women as “dolls” and “babies” flourished in the early years of the twentieth century. “Oh, You Beautiful Doll,” written by A. Seymour Brown (1911), and “Pretty Baby,” created by musician and New Orleans native Tony Jackson (1912 or earlier), and other ...
4. A New Group of Baby Dolls Hits the Streets
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Mardi Gras revelries in antebellum New Orleans consisted of neighbors and friends hosting private and public balls and masquerade parties in their own homes, as well as taking part in informal street processions. Enslaved Africans and free people of ...
5. “We Are No Generation”: Resurrecting the Central Role of Dance to the Creation of New Orleans Music
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In 1940 Robert McKinney asked, “Who is this Baby Doll and why is she referred to as such?” The answer lies in the co-location of the sociopolitical world in which these women were embedded with vernacular cultural traditions. By 1912, New Orleans Black expressive culture ...
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No work, carried out in love, is performed in isolation. I thank Millisia White, founder and director of the New Orleans Society of Dance, for an amazing experience in collaborative knowledge creation. Millisia and I met in January 2010 when she was sponsoring a ...
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Page Count: 200
Publication Year: 2013