Y-Storybook Sewing Ladies
The Dacotah Prairie Museum presented a Holiday classic - the Y-Storybook Sewing Ladies and their ornaments which have become an Aberdeen Christmas tradition! The exhibit of ornaments was found on 2nd floor at the top of the stairs and included 67 of the original figures sewn and decorated by hand. The story of the ladies and their ornaments has not only delighted children since 1967, but has raised many thousands of dollars toward the continued enjoyment of all children.
In 1967, Mrs. Adolph Larson adopted the “Story Book Tree” at the annual “YWCA Festival of Trees” and began sewing little figures to match children’s favorite stories. Angels and camels were the first ones she made because, “I started with the story of the Birth of Christ, a story the children love”. That year, she made enough of the little dolls to net a profit of $100 for the YW. The board suggested that Vannie (Mrs. Larson), ask for some volunteers to help her and continue the following year.
Helpers were found and the next year doubled the profit for the YWCA. When the YMCA and the YW joined forces, the ladies continued to sew and sell and many people continued their collections of the ornaments. To date, there are ornaments in every major region of the United States as well as several foreign countries.
The original ornaments were sold with the accompanying Little Goldenbook storybooks to read. When Hazel Roth took over the lead of the sewing ladies upon the passing of Vannie Larson, the group decided to donate funds to erect the “Mother Goose” statue at the new Storybook Land at Wylie Park in honor of Mrs. Larson. That began a long relationship with Storybook Land which still goes on. At the height of the Sewing Ladies Group there were 28 or 29 ladies contributing work, some specializing in a particular figure, or some just in faces of characters. Since the first tree at “Fantasy of Trees”, 2 to 5 new ornaments have been introduced each year, until the set of characters eventually grew to include 89 different figures.
These days, because so many of the ladies involved have passed away, there are only 4 or 5 remaining sewing ladies, and they only sew the four characters from the “Wizard of Oz” - Dorothy (and Toto), the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, and the Lion. In addition, the Mother Goose is always sewn in honor the Storybook Ornament’s original “creator”. Over the years since 1967, the ladies have contributed an amazing amount of money to their community and to the fun and education of its children. A $38,000 donation was contributed to the original YWCA and $50,000 more to the combined YMCA. At Storybook Land, Wylie Park, the ladies provided for four carousel horses at $2,000 each ($8,000) and $5,000 for a balloon on the Wizard’s Ride. $2,500 was given for Dorothy’s House and the newest contribution was made just two months ago toward the building of the new Visitor’s Center for $3,000.
Roz Jakes has been the leader of the group since 2000 and continues to help the sewing ladies stay active. As evidence, they sold out at Winterfest, in November, 2008, and in January will begin sewing again for a new year. “We are always looking for people who enjoy hand sewing and love children,” say Roz, “and we mostly sew in our homes in the time we have and we welcome anyone wishing to become involved.” Carrying on the tradition of delighting children and supporting this community is one that these women have dedicated much time and love to. As Mrs. Larson first stated in 1968, “If you could just see the joy on the children’s faces, the interest they show in the characters that they recognize,” then it all becomes worth the effort.
Thank you for joining the Museum to honor this special group of ladies who have been so dedicated to the education and enjoyment of area children for over 41 years.
To view past exhibits, click here.