These dolls are almost a symbol of archaeology—life and moments frozen in time and discovered under the ground.
Frozen Charlotte dolls, such as the one in the Oatlands gaol collection, were made of glazed porcelain and were also known as bathing dolls or penny dolls. Frozen Charlottes and Frozen Charlies (Charlotte’s male counterpart) were made from about 1850 until 1914. These dolls had immovable arms with clenched fists, painted hair styles and painted faces. They were usually made to be about 20 inches tall (50 cm), but could be much smaller and were painted in black, white and pink. Older versions of these dolls used a cheaper clay body, their age can be told by the identification of flecks in the porcelain (Darbyshire 1990:40.)
Frozen Charlottes were created as a representation of the poem ‘A Corpse Going to a Ball’ by Seba Smith. Smith wrote the poem in 1843 after reading an article in the paper describing a young woman who had frozen to death on a sleigh ride on the way to a ball. The poem, which is also a song, warns young women to listen to their parents, not to concern themselves with fashion and to look after their health (Lord 1966:4.)
This Frozen Charlotte below was found under the floor boards in the Gaoler’s Bedroom of the Oatlands Gaol. Her hair style suggests that she was made in about 1890. Given this age range, this Frozen Charlotte may have belonged to the families of the superintendents who lived in the Gaol from 1878.
A Frozen Charlotte was also found at the new Adelaide Hospital site by Dr Keryn Walshe in March 2012. The doll on the right below is the doll that was found at the new Adelaide Hospital site and the doll on the left is an example of a Frozen Charlotte from a private collection. The doll found at the new Adelaide Hospital site is shorter than the one found at Oatlands.