If you have ever seen an Amish doll, you may have noticed its curious lack of a face. Although sources differ on the exact origin of this tradition, most historians believe these dolls are not faceless for any one reason, but rather for several, many of which relate back to strict Amish religious tradition. Not every Amish doll is missing a face, but the traditional faceless ones are the best-known.
One of the most important tenets of Amish religious tradition holds that all people are the same in the eyes of God and should be treated as equals. For this reason, many people believe Amish rag dolls were created without faces. If a doll has no face, it is free of identity and reinforces the notion of equality both within the Amish community and, in a larger context, the human race.
According to the Book of Deuteronomy in the Bible, people are forbidden from creating graven images or idols. Amish teachings interpret this to mean that no created objects, including dolls, should be accurate representations of the human form. By creating a faceless doll, children cannot regard the doll as a human likeness and thus owning one is not a sin.
Amish religious precepts also teach that vanity and pride are sins. Many Amish individuals believe that represented likenesses, including photographs, encourage vanity, and are therefore forbidden. Similarly, creating a doll or toy with a human image creates an ideal image of the human form and could encourage children to model themselves after this image. This is why many people believe faceless dolls are an affirmation of Amish modesty.
Although most of the reasons cited for the faceless dolls are religious or traditional, increased commercial interest provides a more practical reason. In the early 20th Century, several individuals began to express interest in purchasing the faceless Amish dolls and opportunistic merchants begin to sell the dolls to collectors outside of the Amish community. Although many Amish children are permitted to have dolls with faces, interest from collectors encourages sellers to continue making them with the traditional method.
- Mark Wilson/Getty Images News/Getty Images