The history and enduring appeal of teddy bears was the hot topic at Aston Ingham Women's Institute's meeting on 10th October 2023. Dr. Gillian White, the guest speaker, led an engaging discussion that unravelled the origins of these cuddly companions, tracing their history back to a young German woman and a U.S. President.
Miss Steif, disabled from polio, initially focused on making children's clothes. Left with material scraps, she was persuaded by one of her six brothers to craft a bear out of mohair plush. Though initially dismissed at a German show, the bear caught the eye of a New York businessman, resulting in an order for 3,000 units.
The teddy bear name has American roots. Edward Roosevelt, the U.S. President at that time, was offered a bear tied to a tree to shoot during an unsuccessful hunting trip. Declining the offer, Roosevelt inspired the press to dub these toys "Teddy Bears."
Dr. Gillian White said, "Teddies hold such appeal perhaps because they are so cuddly and give such comfort, making us feel safe." The meeting even featured a teddy bear competition, with many members bringing in their own teddies. Dr. Gillian had the honour of choosing the winning teddy.
The talk proved to be both informative and nostalgic, underscoring the teddy bear's timeless popularity, not just among children but adults too. Dr. Gillian was praised as a very good speaker on a topic that clearly touched the hearts of the Aston Ingham W.I. members.