Free learning resources from arts, cultural and heritage organisations.

Miss Maude Had a Dolly

This resource is part of the Museum Snapshot collection - a collection of smaller resources perfect for starters, plenaries or spare moments to explore something fascinating.


Resource created by Leeds Museums and Galleries, Abbey House.


Curriculum Links

KS1 Science: Materials
KS1 History: Changes within Living Memory

This lovely doll was owned by Miss Maude Cooper when she lived at Abbey House in Leeds. She lived there as a child, between 1883 and 1889, long before it became a museum. The doll has a wax head, legs and arms and a soft stuffed body. Maude was a girl who clearly loved her dolls, she also donated lots of clothes, a doll basket and a spectacular dolls house.

Victorian Wax Doll with pink dress
Victorian Wax Doll

Wax isn’t an ideal material to make dolls from. It can crumble and break when it gets old or if it gets dropped. Wax dolls are really difficult to clean and easily damaged by heat. Have a look at a wax candle. How easy is it to dig your finger nails into? What happens if you drop it? Or leave it on a sunny windowsill?

So why did Victorians use wax to make dolls? It turns out other available materials weren’t brilliant either! The other two main materials for doll makers were pottery and wood. Have a think why they might not be great for making dolls. Think about how safe they were for children.


Activity Ideas

  • How might you sell this doll to young Victorians? Think of a brand name and design some packaging. What colour would it be? What font would you use? Remember you can’t use plastic, that hasn’t been invented yet!
  • Make a Dragons Den style pitch to persuade investors that wax dolls are a great idea.
  • Maude had lots of outfits for her dolls. Have a go at designing or making different outfits for different occasions or jobs. What would she wear to go on safari or if she was going to work as a doctor or chef?