Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Martha Organization and the marttanukketeollisus

As I search for a copy of the book Sata Kansanomaista Kuviokudinmalla by Eeva Haavisto, I have wondered why Finnish knitting isn't better known in the US. We all know about Bohus knitting and Selbuvotter. A friend and I, knowing that Bohus knitting and Selbuvotter knitting became well known because they were female crafts used for economic survival during depressed times, wondered if there hadn't been a similar craft movement in Finland.

I learned today about one movement implemented to help the economic development of women in Finland. It is the Martha Organization. Founded in the late 1800s while Finland was still under Russian rule, the Martha Organization was formed to help women learn basic skills about home economics, nutrition, and care of the family. Part of the organization led to the home production of dolls, now highly collectible, known as Martha dolls. This was a way for women to make money at home. There was even a doll factory in Turku.
According to this web site, Martha dolls were made in Turku from 1908 until 1970.

"Mrs Aurora Johansson and other members of the Finnish Martha Organisation started Turun Marttanukketeollisuus, a manufacturer of dolls, in Turku in 1908. This business became one of the best known and long lived doll manufacturers in Finland. The idea of the Martha Organisation was to offer housewives the chance to make money. The dolls were made at home according to instructions and only the finishing touches were given in the organisation’s quarters. The first Martha Dolls were girl and boy dolls whose head was of German origin whereas the torso was painted cloth. In the 1930’s every little girl’s dream was to have the Martha Bebe Doll. The beautiful Bebe had a flounced dress and glass eyes. Other favourites were the Maija Doll, whose head was made of pulp and who had her hair in a bob, the Lotta Dolls, and the many dolls in Finnish traditional folk costumes. At first Martha Dolls were sold at market places only but from the 1930’s on, you could buy a Martha Doll in a shop anywhere in Finland. But by the beginning of the 1970’s, the production of Martha Dolls was stopped since it was unprofitable." from the web site of Suomenlinnan Lelumuseo.

Chris, Sophia and I visited this doll display, a tribute to the Martha doll along with some modern felted dolls and elaborate doll displays.


  1. This is fascinating. Annalee Dolls, in NH was founded for roughly the same reason, and kept many families in the area solvent during some rough economic times. It would be interesting find out whether the Thorndyke family (of Annalee) knew about this.

  2. Thanks for the information. I had no idea. Many Finns emigrated to NH, especially the Newport area.