by Wain Pearce
The history of the Ragdoll in CFA begins in 1973 with a lady by the name of Blanche Herman, who had recently returned from California where she has bought a breeding pair of Radolls. Blanche lived in Hammond Indiana not far from Chicago. Her concerns with her Ragdolls was how she was going to market this new breed of cat.
Early in 1974 while reading an issue of Cat Magazine she came across an advertisement for the CFA Jolly Roger Feline Fanciers cat show at McCormick Place in Chicago, Aug 31-Sept 1. She preceded to call the entry clerk for the show Mr Jack Wells to see if she could enter a Ragdoll for exhibition. He was very enthused and suggested she bring a male and a female which would be great promotion for the Ragdolls. He had recently seen them in San Francisco, and asked her to bring the complete story and literature on them, and to be prepared to give a talk about them.
Mr Wells asked Blanche if she could bring the Ragdolls up for a press conference a week before the show. He said that there were no Ragdolls in the Chicago area and this show which was the largest show in this area would do a lot to help promote the Ragdolls. Mr Wells later called Blanche and told her that the press conference would be held Aug 27th, and asked again if she could bring her Ragdolls as he felt that the Ragdolls would be a great draw not only for the Ragdolls but also the show.
The show was 4 All-Breed rings, the first in the Midwest. The judges for the show were Wayne Park, Adam Frecowski, Stan Barnaby, & Boris Teron. Blanche entered her first breeding pair Pepples & Bam Bam into the show in exhibition and the crowd loved them.
In 1975 Blanche didn’t have to call about entering the Jolly Roger cat show, the entry clerk Joan Pocica called her, and asked if Blanche would again bring her Ragdolls to the show for exhibition. Joan said that she has had a lot of inquires about the Ragdolls. Joan also asked if Blanche could again bring them for the press review as she had last year.
In 1975 the show was to be held in a new show location, the luxurious new Holiday Inn O’Hare Kennedy Convention Complex. The judges for the show were Matil Rotter, Kim Everett, Lynn Beck, & Ben Ehrhardt. Blanche decided to again take Bam Bam because of his wonderful disposition, and two of her kittens Millicent, & Babe.
Blanche did not exhibit in CFA in 1976, but was invited in 1977 by the Lincoln State Cat Club to exhibit her Ragdolls in their Showcase of Breeds. She decided to take 3 mitted and 1 colorpoint. Those chosen to go were Kennedy, Bam Bam, Millicent, & Babe. This show was advertised as the Midwest First & Finest 6 Ring CFA Show. Boris Teron, Barbara St. Georges, Earl Sandefur, Donna Davis, William Eisenman, & Ruth Parker were the judges for this show.
In 1978 the Lincoln State Cat Club held it’s show in Feb at the Arlington Park Race Track, they again invited Blanche to brilng her Ragdolls for the Show Case of Breeds. The show was only 4 rings this year and Diane Doernberg who some you might know was one of the judges in the show. Evelyn Prather and Bill Lee who several of you know were judging the Household pets. Blanche took Raggedy Ann Susie and Hoosier Little Boy to the show.
During the 70’s Blanche Herman and her Ragdolls had been well received in the Chicago area, and in 1979 Denny Dayton felt that it was time for the Ragdoll Fancier Club (RFC) to petition the CFA to accept the Ragdolls as a new breed. He contacted CFA and requested the information as to what the requirements were for a new breed to be accepted by CFA.
On January 5, 1980 a RFC Board of Directors Meeting was held and Chairman Denny Dayton discussed the requirements for acceptance by CFA and the steps that the Ragdoll breeders must take to achieve acceptance. All present voted to begin the process. RFC at this time had 90 members, and they immediately began to register their cattery and litters with CFA. All the information had to be in to CFA by 1 August 1980. However things were not to be in 1980, and it would be 1981 before the Ragdoll breeders would make there petition to CFA.
On April 20, 1981 Denny Dayton sent a letter to Tom Dent Executive Director of CFA requesting an opportunity to present their petition to the CFA Board at their October Meeting in Philadelphia for acceptance of the Ragdoll as a new breed in CFA. A letter was also sent to CFA President Walter Friend Jr. asking to be placed on the agenda for the October meeting. At a meeting of the RFC Board of Directors it was voted to send a representative and 3 Ragdolls to the CFA Board meeting, and each cattery would contribute a minimum of $20.00 to cover the cost.
Word came back from CFA that the standards would have to be rewritten to conform with CFA requirements. Denny began immediately to rewrite the standards. Hal Meadows who had just gone through the process with his Singapuras offered helpful hints to Denny as to how to proceed.
By September a number of Ragdoll breeders had decided to go to Philadelphia for the October 10-11 CFA Board meeting to support Denny and the Ragdolls. Denny Dayton & Doris Michaux flew out from California as did Georgann Chambers, Cindy & Charles Smith with their Ragdoll Ru traveled from Texas. Dorothy Metcalf & her mother with their Ragdoll Dusty Miller drove. Meg Miller joined up with Blanche Herman, and they flew in together bringing Megs Mr Bojangles with them. Glena Spaulding was there, as were Linda Williams and her husband. Pat Health flew in from Portland Oregon.
Denny Dayton made the presentation to the CFA Board on Sunday morning. Denny made a good presentation, but there was so much anti-Baker feelings in the room weighing upon the CFA Board members that Denny was fighting an uphill battle right from the start. The most damaging thing however was the report from the Carnivore Genetics Research Center and their Geneticist Andrew T. Lloyd who the CFA had requested to review the information that had been provided by RFC. He was very negative towards the information that was provided, and ask CFA to reject the Ragdolls. Denny had tried to point out the differences between what Ann Baker was promoting and what the Ragdoll breeders in RFC were breeding. Mr Lloyd stated “that the information was utterly irrelevant to the purpose of the communication, and self-defeating in that we are all begged to forget the ancient history of Ragdoll breeders.”
The CFA Board totally rejected the Ragdolls, and it would be another 12 years before the Ragdoll breeders would try again. In 1983 Georgann Chambers exhibited 4 Ragdolls at the National Pet Convention and a number of CFA people encouraged her to work with RFC to make another presentation to CFA in 1984. On February 15-16 CFA invited Blanche to bring her Ragdolls to participate in the Showcase of Breeds in Villa Park Illinois. She took Bartholomew, Casey, Jenny, & Patches to show, they comprised all 3 patterns. Ragdoll breeders Rita Sievern, Pat Rados & Lorraine Carlson went with her to help out.
In 1986, the Ragdoll Fanciers Club (RFC) Breed Chair, Dorthy Metcalf, worked actively toward getting the Ragdoll accepted into CFA. This effort continued on into 1988 when Susan Bugdin showed 3 Ragdolls in CFA in Melbourne Florida: Abigail, Atlas, & Elijah Blue. Pralines & Creme was shown in Dayton, Ohio by Kathleen Grischy. Blance Herman & Glena Spaulding showed several of their Ragdolls in Chicago, Illinois. Glena also showed two lovely Ragdolls in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
These early breeders worked hard for acceptance of our Ragdolls in CFA and while they may have failed, they laid a foundation within CFA that we have continued to build upon.
In 1992, two Ragdoll breeders, Gail Nettles in Canada and Lou Ann Armstrong in Florida began working toward making a presentation of our Ragdolls to CFA. They wanted to make as strong a presentation to CFA as possible and sought the help of as many Ragdoll breeders as possible. On February 13, 1993, they made their presentation and the Ragdolls were accepted. Gail Nettles with Pat Steckman & JaNeill Cillessen made the presentation.
The following is a direct quote from Gail Nettles from her letter that was sent out to those who had supported the effort to gain acceptance in CFA for the Ragdoll.
“Although the CFA Executive Board voted to recognize all 3 patterns, they did make it very clear that they would prefer to see mostly Bicolor Ragdolls. We went in asking just for the Bicolor, and CFA rewarded us with all 3 patterns.”
On May 1, 1993, the Ragdolls were officially allowed to be shown in the Miscellaneous class.
In 1993, Gail Nettles founded the Ragdolls of America Group to be a CFA Ragdoll breed club. There were two classes of membership, voting and non-voting. To be a voting member you had to own at least one Ragdoll and have shown at least one Ragdoll in a minimum of 3 CFA shows in the past 12 months.
In 1994, Gail Nettles wrote an article in the RFCI Ragdoll World that “because of various reasons that effective May 1, 1994 the Mitted & Colorpoints could no longer be shown in Miscellaneous class but could still be shown in Exhibition class.” She stated that we would still be allowed to register all 3 patterns in CFA.
Shortly after Gail Nettles announced that the Ragdoll Breeders would not be able to show their colorpoints and Mitteds in CFA after May 1, 1994 she received a letter from Thomas Dent Executive Director for CFA that the ban was effective immediately. Our Colorpoints & Mitted were “Exhibition Only” until 2006.
In November, 1993, the Ragdolls made their first appearance at the CFA International show in Nashville Tennessee. JaNeil Cillessen brought her blue bicolor female, Dolly, and Camma Roberts brought a seal bicolor female and a blue bicolor male to the show. To the best of my knowledge, our Ragdolls have been represented at every CFA International show since.
For the first season in CFA (1993-94), year end awards were offered by RAG for Ragdolls shown in CFA’s Miscellaneous Class during the season. Each of the following Ragdolls received a Certificate of Merit for their achievement. The Winners were:
1. Katsdoll Aladdin owned and bred by Kathy Cassidy. Aladdin is a seal bicolor
2/3. A tie between TLC Marco Polo (a blue bicolor) & TLC Calamity Jane (seal bicolor) both owned and bred by Pat Steckman.
4. There was a three way tie for 4th place. RagsNroses Michaelangelo, a seal mitted; Cinnamon, a seal colorpoint; and Melody, a seal mitted, all three owned and bred by Wain & Jeanne Pearce.
In 1996, as time for the CFA International show approached a crisis arose as the Ragdolls were again invited, but it appeared that no one would be able to go and no Ragdolls would be at the show. At the last moment, a young California Ragdoll Breeder named David Zabel stepped forward and offered to recruit as many Ragdolls as he could and to attend the International as the Ragdoll representative. David not only recruited a number of beautiful Ragdolls for the show, but also paid for and set up a beautiful Ragdoll Breed Booth display.
The year 1997 was an important one for the Ragdolls. While RAG had existed since 1993, it wasn’t until 1997 that RAG sent in an application to CFA and was accepted as an official Ragdoll Breed Club. President Janet Meriwether stated in her message to the RAG members that “the new RAG Board had spent hours upon hours writing a Constitution and By-laws that was in accordance with CFA.” This she said was “in preparation for RAG to apply to the CFA Board to advance our Ragdoll Bicolors to Provisional class after five years as Miscellanous.”
“In order for the Ragdoll to go before the CFA Board they had to be sponsored by an official club member-the RAG. No official club means no sponsor to the Board and therefore, no recogntion for the breed.”
In 1998, the first presentation to advance the Ragdoll Bicolors to Provisional was made to CFA on Feb 7, 1998, in Houston, Texas. The presentation by RAG was successful and the Ragdolls were advanced to Provisional effective May 1, 1998. CFA also approved the Van pattern for Provisional as well.
In 1999, the first attemp to advance the Bicolors and Vans to Championship in CFA was defeated. For those in RAG it was a terrible disappointment, but in talking to many people within CFA there was great hope that 2000 would be the year of the Ragdolls.
From an article by Judy Kay Halsey taken from the RAG Breed Club Newsletter September 1999: “We had 11 Ragdolls in attendance housed in cream brocade cage curtains. On top of each cage was a spray of red roses and willows. We looked very professional. We lost by a very narrow margin.” (9-8)
In 2000, another attempt was made to advance the Ragdoll Bicolors and Vans to Championship, and this time the Stars fell on the Ragdolls. They were accepted for Championship effective May 1, 2000.
In February 2002, the first attempt to advance the Ragdoll Colorpoints & Mitted to AOV was summited by Judy Kay Halsey. It was ruled out of order and no vote was taken. At the October 2001 meeting of the Executive Board, there had been a long debate as to whether the Ragdoll did mimic the Birman. A poll had been taken of the Birman Breed Council members, and they had voted overwhelmingly against the Ragdoll Colorpoints & Mitted being advanced to AOV. Fred Jaccobergger stated that if both the Ragdoll & Birman Breed Councils approve to advance the Ragdoll colorpoints by 60% margin, the CFA Board had the right to consider the advancement. Otherwise, the question was out of order. Liz Watson asked, “That means that the Birman Breed Council has control over the Ragdoll Breed that does not look like it at all?” Fred Jacobberger replied, “That is correct.”
In 2004, a second CFA Ragdoll club, Ragdoll Breed Club (RBC), was started. RBC was opened to membership in September 2004 and within 5 weeks not only had 45 members, but had members in all 8 CFA Regions including Japan and Europe. These were predominatly new people to CFA since there was only a 25% overlap of membership with RAG. RBC was unaminously approved by the CFA Board at their February 2005 Board meeting in Houston, Texas.
In 2005, Another attempt was made to advance the Colorpoints & Mitted’s to AOV. The Ragdoll Breed Council Secretary Isabelle Bellavance had planned to fly to Houston, and make the presentation, however Isabelle’s mother had a stroke, and Isabelle had to cancel her flight to be with her mother. In her place Lu Ann McMahan, Brenda Hammett & Gerri Stein took her place, and did an outstanding job of representing the Ragdoll Breed before the CFA Board. After much discussion the Colorpoint & Mitted proposal was defeated by a 12-5 vote with 2 members abstaining. Thus, the work to advance our Colorpoints to AOV would continue.
In October 2005 the Ragdoll Breed Club did something that had never been done before. In conjunction with the Superstition Cat Club they put on the First Ragdoll Speciality Show in Phoenix Arizona. Jill Hopper did an outstanding job making this show happen. She lives in Phoenix and is a member of Superstition Cat Club as well as the Secretary of the Ragdoll Breed Club. She was the Engine that made the Train run on time.
The Ragdoll Breeders came from all over the country to help with this show, many came in early on Friday to help with the set up. They brought 43 Ragdolls for the show, 30 in competition and 13 Colorpoint & Mitted for exhibition.
Having failed at the 2005 CFA Board meeting to advance the Colorpoint & Mitted Ragdolls to AOV, the Ragdoll Breeders determined to work harder than ever to prepare for the 2006 Board Meeting. Our Ragdoll Breed Council Secretary Isabelle Bellavance was going to be able to make the meeting this year, and to support her Lu Ann McMahan & Brenda Hammett who had made the presentation the previous year were going to attend, as were Laura Wilson & Wain & Jeanne Pearce.
Everyone pitched in on Saturday and worked hard setting up the display. Six Colorpoint & Mitted Ragdolls had been brought to show the CFA Board. Isabelle did an outstanding job of pointing out the differences between the Mitted Ragdoll and the Birman.
On Sunday morning we all met at 9:00am to hear the discussion and the vote on the Ragdoll proposal. Isabelle made the presentation for the Ragdoll Colorpoint & Mitted to be advanced to AOV. After a lengthly discussion, CFA President Pam DelaBar called for the vote, and they were advanced to AOV by a 17-2 vote. Beginning May 1, 2006 they can be shown in AOV class.
Following the Advancement to AOV status, plans were immediately made to prepare a presentation to advance them to Championship. It became apparent that there was not going to enough time to have the presentation ready by August 2006 which was the cut off date for the 2007 CFA Board meeting. It was decided that our best bet was to aim for the 2008 CFA Board meeting instead. An all out effort was made by many of the Ragdoll breeders to get as many Mitted & Colorpoints into the CFA show halls as possible. Careful records were kept as to what shows they were shown in and which judges handled them.
2008 would be a very Historic year for the Ragdoll Breed in CFA, after 15 long years CFA finally granted Championship to all patterns & colors for the Ragdolls. The CFA Board meeting in Houston Texas on Feb 2-3, 2008 voted 17-2 to accept the Mitted & Colorpoint Ragdolls for Championship competition as of May 1, 2008.
Those attending this historic event were Ragdoll Breed Council Secretary Isabelle Bellavance, Lu Ann McMahan, Brenda Hammett, Laura Wilson, Shelly Wood and Anne Paul and her daughter. They had brought some beautiful examples of the breed. There were two seal colorpoints, a blue mitted, a seal mitted and a cream point. This crew of breeders had put together a beautiful display featuring the Ragdoll Breed Booth, matching cage curtains to show off these wonderful Ragdolls.
The CFA Board broke from their meeting around 6:00pm on Sat Feb 2nd and came down to look at the 3 breeds that were being displayed this year. The La Perm, Ragamuffin, and our Ragdoll group had gone in together and provided the CFA Board with a little snack of wine & cheese. Isabelle had a power point presentation designed to show series of cat pictures trying to get the Board to spot the Ragdoll among the Birmans and the Birman among the Ragdolls. The Ragdoll group mingled well with the CFA Board members and were available to answer any questions that they might have.
They must have done a really good job, as on Sun they gathered in the meeting room and heard the CFA Board vote to advance the Mitted & Colorpoints to Championship status. While she was not there for the historic event, a special thanks goes to Jill Hopper who gave so much of her time and worked endless hours on her computer preparing the presentation with charts and graphs for this meeting.
One of my greatest happiness was that Denny & Laura Dayton lived to see this day, they were so happy when they heard the news that CFA had finally accepted ALL Ragdoll colors and patterns for championship. They began the quest in Philadelphia in 1981 with the first presentation in CFA only to be denied acceptance. My biggest regret was that Blanche Herman pass away without seeing final victory. I believe that she was the very first Ragdoll breeder to ever show in CFA, beginning in 1974 she showed every year in CFA up until 1982.
My deep appreciation, and a THANK YOU to all those who over the many years gave so much of their time and effort to made this day possible.