Who Was Alice-Heidi?

Alice-Heidi lived in The Bookshop for Boys and Girls where, according to a story in the December 1916 issue of the Little Folks children's magazine, she arrived after falling from Santa Claus' sleigh into the Boston Public Gardens. This story garnered Alice-Heidi some fame among the children of Boston and beyond, and many young visitors came to the Bookshop just to say hello to her. Alice-Heidi loved meeting the children of the Bookshop and recommending new titles for them to read. It is said that Alice-Heidi received her name, with contribution from the child patrons of the Bookshop, after Alice from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865), and Heidi from Heidi (1880). 

In 1924, after the Bookshop's 1921 relocation from 267 Boylston Street to its new, larger space at 270 Boylston Street, Alice-Heidi received a wonderful dollhouse crafted by the Toy Furniture Shop in Providence, Rhode Island. Guests were invited to a special event on November 10, during which this new house was unveiled to Alice-Heidi.

Later on, the dollhouse would come to be known as the Greenaway House, as Alice-Heidi and her younger sister Wendy, who came to live with her around 1926, adopted "Greenaway" as their own last name, in honor of author Kate Greenaway. Wendy was characterized as clumsy, messy, and very excitable, while Alice-Heidi maintained proper decorum for a bookstore doll. Greenaway House also had a doorman, Brownie, a character based on the household spirits of Scottish folklore.

Alice-Heidi presided over her own doll convention, which discussed topics of great importance such as "Are Animals Replacing Dolls in Home, School and Playground?", and took place yearly at The Bookshop. Delegates to her convention were referred to as "dollegates."

Alice-Heidi's main contribution to The Horn Book Magazine was her column "Alice-Heidi's Secrets". Here is a sampling of some of them:

On multiple occasions, Alice-Heidi changed physical appearance. Bertha Mahony Miller wanted The Bookshop's doll to as closely resemble a living child as possible, thus Alice-Heidi was swapped for a new version of herself roughly yearly for several years. Some of Alice-Heidi's Secrets are used to explain away the sudden change in doll model so that young Bookshop visitors would not be confused when they did not recognize the Greenaway House doll. 

After 1927, the "Alice-Heidi's Secrets" column stopped appearing in the MagazineFor a brief time in 1936, Alice-Heidi and Wendy co-authored a column called "Greenaway House", which contained letters that they'd received from children...and another doll. They were even credited as Doll Editors of the Magazine!

Greenaway House disappeared for a significant amount of time after the Bookshop's closure in 1936. However, it resurfaced in 2014, although not in the pristine condition in which we are sure Alice-Heidi left it. Perhaps Wendy had something to do with the mess! A dollhouse expert in Connecticut was working on a full restoration of Greenaway House using Bertha Mahony's exact furniture plans, which were also recovered.

Where is Alice-Heidi now? There is some speculation that after the Bookshop's closure, she may have gone to live with one of Bertha's young relatives. As a lady of now at least 108 years old, the Horn Book staff would like to imagine that Alice-Heidi is out there somewhere enjoying her distinguished age, doing what she loves most: reading all the new, stellar books for children.

If you know where to find access to the Little Folks issue that features Alice-Heidi's origin story, or know the whereabouts of Alice-Heidi in any of her forms, please reach out to us in the comments!

Renee Runge

Renee Runge is the Horn Book Fellow during the Centennial year, 2024.  She is a third-year student in the dual MA/MFA program in Children's Literature and Writing for Children at Simmons University, after graduating summa cum laude with a BA in English from the University of Florida in 2021. Renee loves anything and everything to do with children's literature and culture, and gets especially nerdy for archival material. 

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This is amazing. Thank you so much, Renee!! I've wondered about Alice-Heidi's origin story.

Posted : Jan 31, 2024 05:22



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