Sunday, April 4, 2010

Hallie Quinn Brown

I don't know how I found this amazing woman, I think somehow, she found me. Her story is incredible. Hallie Quinn Brown was born between 1845 and 1850 in Pennsylvania, to freed slaves, Thomas Arthur Brown and Frances Jane Scroggins. Her grandparents on both sides were caucasian plantation owners. Given the way of plantation life, that doesn't seem too surprising. Hallie's mother was given her freedom from her grandfather, who was a Revolutionary War officer. What's rather unbelievable is how Hallie's father attained his freedom. Thomas Brown was forced to purchase his freedom from his own parent. From his own MOTHER. She was a Scottish plantation owner, and his father was the black overseer. I cannot fathom a mother choosing to enslave her own child, and make him PAY her for his freedom. Oh, I suppose societal restrictions gave her little choice in the matter. But still...she could have given him his freedom instead of trying to make a buck off of it. I'm guessing Hallie wasn't too close to Grandma.

Whatever their upbringing, fortunately for Hallie's parents, they both received good educations. They became educators themselves, and were actively involved in the Underground Railroad. In a home of educated freed slaves, naturally Hallie was well educated, and graduated from Wilberforce University in Ohio. She became a teacher, with a focus on providing/improving literacy among former slave children. Hallie worked with Booker T. Washington, authored several books, traveled as a lecturer on African American culture, speaking before Queen Victoria. Hallie was instrumental in the preservation and maintenance of Frederick Douglass' home as a museum in Washington, D.C. What a woman!

Naturally, I was inspired by Hallie in the creation of this doll. She's Hallie too. I know, I know, another Izannah Walker style doll. I'm addicted. I tried to depict Hallie during her childhood, in the late 1850's/early 1860's. Hallie is wearing a cotton 1840 reproduction fabric dress in the style popular during her childhood. Hallie is completely handmade of fabric and paperclay. I never use molds. Her clothing is completely handsewn, in the historical manner.

Hallie has her own rag doll, which I believe she helped her mother create. Little girls learned sewing at their mother's knee, often by sewing rag dolls and their little doll dresses. Hallie's doll is very primitive in appearance, as all rag dolls of the time were. Her stand is painted to resemble both a quilt as well as the floorcloths popular at the time.

For more information on my little Hallie, please pay her a little visit on ebay:

She's looking for a new home, because the earthquake she trembled through this afternoon scared the daylights out of her, and she's not certain California is a safe place right now!


  1. Robyn - Hallie is beautiful! She has both a soft and strong feeling to her. :-)


  2. What an incredible story...! Hallie should be proud of her namesake, she is adorable.

  3. Beautiful work! And sad but true, some mother's DO make their children pay, and pay and pay...can you say guilt?

  4. OH Robin, She is just the most BEAUTIFUL little girL. I love her and the wonderful story about the woman she was named after.

  5. Hallie is absolutely fabulous - her outfit, how you painted her, the base, and the story of the original Hallie! Wonderful!!!



  6. What an amazing story! And a lovely doll, too. Well done!

  7. What a powerful story and what a beautiful doll. They do justice to one another.


  8. Thank you for sharing this history. I came to this post quite late and see that she is no longer available on ebay. Do you still have her? If so, please email me. Thanks.