Creator or Collector

I. Roberta Bell


image preview

Photo Credit

Laurel Lamb, Curator, University of Arkansas Museum


Hilda and Milton Geuther

Object Date


Object Type

Porcelain clay, mohair wigs, saw dust filled dolls


Spring 5-1-2021


Hilda and Milton Geuther were avid doll collectors. They lived in Eureka Springs, but were first introduced to I. Roberta Bell's African American dolls while living in Mokena, Illinois.

Starting in the 1960s, Bell, a Chicago school teacher, created a set of 26 dolls to help teach African American history to her students. Each doll was created in the likeness of African Americans who made significant contributions to history.

A limited number of copies of the dolls were made over the years. Their heads and hands were shaped from porcelain clay and skin colors baked into it using a kiln. Faces were hand-painted and wigs of mohair adorn them. The bodies are filled with saw dust.

Some dolls took longer than others to make. For instance, creating Harriet Tubman’s head took less than a week while Frederick Douglass’s head took one year. In 1970, Bell became the first African American to join the National Institute of American Doll Artists.

The University of Arkansas Museum has a full set of Bell's dolls. The doll featured here depicts Mary McLeod Bethune. African American female, gray hair in bun style, gray woll jacket and skirt, rose blouse, lavender flower in lapel, tan socks, black shoes, red stone rimg on right hand, diamond ring on left.

Object Housed

University of Arkansas Museum

Object Accession Number


Image Location