If you had the misfortune of being christened "Betsy", oh dear…. Of course, it's a lovely name, there's no doubting that. But from 1935, the lives of Betsys everywhere were about to change. Dramatically. All thanks to one tiny doll and a soggy nappy.
"Betsy Wetsy" became a favourite playground taunt guaranteed to bring any little girl called Betsy to her knees, all because of a new doll on the market. Betsy Wetsy (or Little Miss Betsy Wetsy as the box in the 50s called her) was, in fact, one of the most popular drink and wet toy dolls of the Baby Boom era, produced by the Ideal Toy Company in New York (also behind the Rubik's Cube and Magic 8 Ball, fact fiends). Maybe it was testament to the fact that Betsy Wetsy never caught on to the idea of potty training that this plastic doll stuck around for a good 20-30 years or so, even spiking in popularity in the 50s and 60s.
"When I grow up, I want to be a Mommy," said the caring little girl in the Betsy Wetsy advert. Well, that's all well and good, but I can't help thinking that "Polly Poopy" wouldn't have had quite such a fan base. Still, Betsy gave little girls everywhere the chance to practise changing a baby, bathing it etc, all for just under six dollars in its original incarnation. "It's a wonderful toy, it's Ideal," said the manufacturer, Ideal, as the advert's end. And, well, we agree.
The little lady came in various guises - 8 inches high, 13 inches or 22 inches. She was also produced with moulded plastic hair, caracul wigs or blonde, brunette or red plugged hair. Like with all toy dolls, the producer cleverly rolled out a range of must-have accessories for Betsy Wetsy, including: a layette, baby bottles and a plastic bath tub. The uniform feature of all being that Betsy Wetsy had a tiny open mouth in which her owner (playing Mummy) could insert a filled bottle that was supplied into her. The pretend milk/water would then trickle through the soft plastic baby body and, yep you guessed it, out the other end. Little boys had to get used to their sisters "surprising" them with Betsy Wetsy's magical talent! And mums had to get used to finding suspect puddles all over the house.
Betsy Wetsy's manufacturer soon found itself served with a patent infringement lawsuit from Effanbee, a company which had previously produced a similar doll, called Dy-dee. However, the judge ruled that drinking and peeing are both natural movements which cannot be patented. Go Betsy Wetsy! Or don't, not until you pants are firmly in place.
From there on, she went from strength to strength, with even a made-in-Chine version being rolled out in the 80s by Ideal and a black version - making it one of the first dolls to be made like this. It's testament today too, that the Toy Industry Association has in the past few years named Betsy Wetsy in the 100 most memorable and most creative toys of the 20th century. In fact, if it hadn't been for Betsy Wetsy's success, we might never have had dear old Tiny Tears, which came later on - combining the power to pee and cry on demand. What a girl!