This set of child-sized furniture was a birthday gift to the donor, Mary Alice Cole, from her parents, in the 1960s. She recalled many families in Watervliet, NY, having play houses in the back yard, where “playing house” was a popular activity for girls.
Through much of the 20th century, play, and the toys that went with it, was very gendered. Boys and girls were encouraged to participate in play that mimicked what they would be expected to do as adults—cooking, cleaning, and playing house for girls; construction, vehicles, and soldiers for boys.
This set of play furniture (with the addition of a chair from her husband’s family) was also used by Cole’s children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews—boys and girls—in a play house built by her husband.