Dolls were always good for lending a listening ear after a tough day at preschool, but Chatty Cathy actually talked back.
Tired of having to carry on the entire conversation by yourself at tea parties? Let Chatty Cathy take some of the social weight off your shoulders. Of course, the conversation would end up something like this:
“Chatty Cathy, your new Pink Peppermint dress is absolutely lovely”
“Let’s play house”
“What’s that, Chatty Cathy? You want some more cookies?”
“Please change my dress”
Mattel introduced its Chatty Cathy doll line in 1959, and the little sweetheart was an instant must-have for Baby Boomer girls.
Like most dolls, Chatty Cathy took several forms – different hairstyles and colours, different eye colours and styles, and even different skin tones – along with several too-adorable-to-be-true outfits.
But what really set Cathy apart from her dollmates was the power of speech, originally provided by June Foray, the voice of Rocket J. Squirrel (among many others) from The Bullwinkle Show. Maureen McCormick (TV’s Marcia Brady) later took over Cathy’s vocals in the 1970s.
Cathy’s many outfits – including seasonal wear like fur-lined coats and springtime play dresses – kept the games of dress-up fresh, but Cathy’s life was still missing something. Mattel soon figured it out:
The poor little doll was lonely, the only one of her kind. To cheer up those freckle-faced blues, the toy company introduced a few new members to the Chatty Cathy family . . .
Charmin Chatty was the spectacles-wearing big sister of the clan, while boy and girl Chatty Babies upped the precious quotient. Upon the star girl herself, Mattel bestowed a singing voice, leading to the Singing Chatty Cathy doll in the early 1960s.
The entire Chatty Cathy line was a success, and for many girls growing up in the ’60s, the last voice they heard at night came with the pull of a ring on the doll tucked in beside them.
In fact, Chatty Cathy caught on in such a big way that her name entered the common language – to this day, an overly talkative individual may still be dubbed a “Chatty Cathy”.
That may not be fair to a beloved childhood friend like Chatty Cathy, but Cathy takes it all in stride.
To show that she still has her good spirits about her, Mattel released a new line of Chatty Cathy dolls at the end of the 1990s, letting a new generation of girls have their very own talking best friend.