Truro woman to sell most of her doll collection to support a cause in Guatemala

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Joyce O'Brien looks over some fairy tale porcelain dolls that make up part of her collection. With a collection of almost 500 dolls, O'Brien, who lives in Truro, is selling off a lot of it in support of those struggling in Guatemala. Raissa Tetanish - Truro Daily News

TRURO - Joyce O'Brien has always loved dolls.

From playing with them when she was young to the ripe age of 85, dolls have been in her life.

"A doll is a doll is a doll," said O'Brien, sitting in the Edinburgh Hall Gallery at Parkland Estates with dolls lining tables along the walls. "I would always find myself stopping in the toy aisle."

When O'Brien moved into the seniors' complex, almost 500 dolls went with her. She lives in a two-bedroom suite where she displays as many as she can. But now, O'Brien is thinking she needs to downsize and is hoping to sell some of the dolls to support a project in Guatemala.

"I have a lot of favourite dolls, including one that was mine as a child. That big one in the basket," she said as she pointed, "is Dimples. She isn't the first doll I had, but she's the first one I remember playing with. I was seven."

Dimples, she said, was really her friend.

"Growing up, we had a room in our farmhouse that was like a tiny closet. It didn't have any windows and I took it as my own."

O'Brien cleaned out the closet and moved her dolls in.

"I remember sitting with them and playing."

She grew up near Lawrencetown and had eight siblings, six of which were sisters.

"All the rest of (my siblings) were older, so I played alone a lot. My dolls became people to me. I talked to them and slept with them, and my siblings would throw them out of the bed.

"I used to want to take them out on a sled, but I didn't have anything to pull them in."

For the rest of the month, O'Brien will have about 350 of her dolls on display in the gallery, most of which are for sale.

Upon retirement, O'Brien had wanted to answer an appeal for help in Guatemala through the Tatamagouche Centre in support of Breaking the Silence.

"But that was for much younger people so I said I would put my dolls to work."

O'Brien hosted displays of her dolls and proceeds went to the cause.

"Now my goal is $1,000. If I don't make that much by selling my dolls, I will make that up somehow," she said, adding any money past the goal will be donated to another charity.

"I met some people at the centre that were from Guatemala and heard their stories. There was one that lost their whole family in a massacre."

She said Breaking the Silence, which supports Guatemalans struggling for political, social, economic and cultural justice, "touched" her.

"Some live in terrible conditions. All the men, including boys, were taken away and the women were left behind. The women had no livelihoods."

She said some women are able to make items, such as bags, to support their families, but most were left to tend to pigs.

While many people tend to think of younger ages when it comes to dolls, O'Brien doesn't see it that way.

"I consider them works of art. People often say ‘you're too old to own a doll,' but they're art. That's the way I admire them."

Anyone wishing to stop by O'Brien's display for a guided tour, viewing or to purchase can contact her at 895-1260.


What: Dolls of the 20th Century show and sale.

Where: Edinburgh Hall Gallery at Parkland Estates, Young Street, Truro.

Who: Joyce O'Brien, with a collection of almost 500 dolls.

When: Until the end of January.

Types of dolls: Porcelain dolls with ball joints and kid bodies, some with wooden arms and legs; composition (made with glue and sawdust); hard plastic dolls; vinyl dolls; character dolls such as Mrs. Beasley from Family Affair and Anne of Green Gables; Barbies; GI Joes; musical dolls; Precious Moments collection; expression dolls; numerous dolls from various countries and many more.

Why: Joyce O'Brien is selling off most of her collection in support of Breaking the Silence, an initiative through the Tatamagouche Centre that supports Guatemalans struggling for political, social, economic and cultural justice.

For more information: Contact Joyce at 895-1260.


Organizations: Tatamagouche Centre

Geographic location: Guatemala, Lawrencetown, Green Gables

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Recent comments

  • J
    January 26, 2013 - 13:37

    A friend of mine went up to look at Joyce's dolls. She gathered up a bunch of dolls & went to purchase them. Joyce then said that she changed her mind and wasn't selling them, hiding the price tags with her hand.

  • J
    January 26, 2013 - 13:36

    I wanted to buy a doll from Joyce, we visited her before Christmas. She said she'd sell it to me in January. We got in touch with her in January & she, then, wanted $1000 for the doll! Someone told her it was worth $4000. If you search this doll on ebay, they are only going for $700 max. Joyce's daughter said it wasn't "prudent" of us to visit her mother. Good luck with your dolls, Joyce!