History & Development of the Ragdoll Breed

Ragdoll History 1976-1980

As the year 1974 was coming to an end, the vast majority of the Ragdoll breeders were becoming very discouraged with the way Ann Baker was running the International Ragdoll Cat Association (IRCA) which she had founded in 1971. While she had invited all of the Ragdoll breeders to join her IRCA club, she wanted to maintain total control over all decisions regarding the Club and the Ragdoll breed.

As 1975 was drawing near they had grown tired of her dominating ways, and refusal to listen to their concerns and ideas for the breed. In August of 1974 Denny & Laura decided that it was time to unite and hold a meeting of the Ragdoll breeders, and get everything out into the open. On August 23, 1974 Denny sent out a letter requesting that a meeting be held to discuss the various issues. It was also suggested that an attorney be engaged not only to moderate the meeting, but to draw up any legal documents, or the setting up of a new Cat Club, depending on the outcome of the meeting. Otherwise they felt it would be a waste of time and money.

The charges for the attorney Mr. Nicolas Sanford, were expected to be close to $1000.00. This would include time spent at the meeting, and drawing up documents for a Cat Club, and any other documents that may come about as a result of the meeting. The expense of the attorney would be shared by each of the seven breeders. This would mean a contribution of $150.00 each. It was felt that this was a small amount to not only protect their investments, but to enable them to get on with the breeding and promotion of their Ragdolls.

They felt that any rules set up under a new Cat Club, should give all of the breeders who joined a legal stand, to further the efforts of being in business. They wanted the formulation of a Cat Club or Cat Association where every breeder would have a vote. Where there could be an exchange of ideas concerning genetics, marketing, and other related subjects pertaining to the further development of the Ragdoll breed.

Denny felt that all differences of opinions could be resolved during the first initial meeting. He felt that the meeting could be run fairly, with the Attorney acting as the moderator, and with each breeder having an equal opportunity to express their views and ideas for advancing the Ragdolls. Denny’s letter was met with a very favorable response; however, Pat Garner suggested that some preliminary work could be done by mail. Therefore Denny sent out another letter in September with the Constitution and By-laws for a new club to either replace IRCA, or for the formation of a new club depending on Ann Baker’s willingness to accept changes that the other breeders felt were necessary.

Those invited to the meeting to be held in January 1975 were: Ann Baker, the Daytons, Garner, Goosen, Herman, Jensen, Pope, Sanford, and the Spagnols. Ann Baker was invited, but chose not to attend, and labeled the meeting as a rebellion against her. That the sole purpose of the meeting was to steel her breed away from her.

The Ragdoll Society was officially formed February 1, 1975 as an organization dedicated to the advancement of the Ragdoll breed. The first goal of the new club was to gain recognition of ALL three patterns for competition showing in the various Cat Associations. The new club felt that there was a need for a newsletter to be published quarterly, beginning in March 1975. The vision for this newsletter would be to cultivate worldwide friendship and provide constructive information for all Ragdoll owners.

The first officers of the Ragdoll Society were Denny Dayton as President, Laura Dayton as Vice President & Ruby Spagnol as their Secretary/Treasure. There was also a Board of Directors which consisted of seven members from all parts of the country, and an advisory Board of Directors of Lawyers & Veterinarians who offered professional services to the Society when needed. The Ragdoll Society was incorporated in 1976.

During 1976 the Ragdoll Society was able to gain recognition of the three patterns for competition in both CFF & CROWN. This was no small task, but the Ragdoll Society was equal to the challenge. Ann Baker had written the original Standard for the Ragdoll, but she had written it only for the Mitted pattern. It had been necessary for the new Ragdoll club to write a standard for the Bicolor & Colorpoint patterns in order to get them accepted within the various Cat Asscociations. Almost immediately they were challenged by Ann’s lawyer who sought to have them rejected by the various Cat Associations. Ann’s lawyer claimed that no one had the right to change the standard except the originator of the Breed. Ann Baker began working almost full time to hamper the breeding of Ragdolls by other breeders. She tried unsuccessfully to halt all registrations of the Ragdolls in CFF and NCFA.

The Ragdoll Society sought advice from their lawyer Raymond Garcia. Their position was that the Standards had to be changed for improvement in the various breeding programs in order to work with the registering of their Ragdolls in the various Cat Associations; as they all required a slightly different wording of the Standard. The Ragdoll Society believed that without changes in the Standards, Ragdolls would have a very difficult time in obtaining recognition for Championship showing throughout the Cat Fancy. This issue would drag on for a period of time, but eventually the Ragdoll Society would prevail.

In 1977 the Ragdoll Society had a new Secretary/Treasure, Elaine Fagerstom, and in September of that year the Ragdoll Society Newsletter was renamed the Rag and a new Editor Doris Michaux took over the job. In May of 1978 the Ragdolls were accepted into UCF. In June, the name of the Club was changed to the Ragdoll Fanciers Club (RFC). It then became affiliated with the Cat Fanciers Federation (CFF) as a breed club. Affiliation was made with CFF because it was the first association to recognize the Ragdolls in ALL three patterns. CFF required that a breed be represented by a breed club, much as CFA does today.

The RFC got off to an excellent start with a generous donation from Trustee R.N. Trubey. An election was held, and the new officers for 1978 were Vern Oliver, President; Ole Henriksen, Vice President; and Doris Michaux, Secretary/Treasure. Brig. General Robert Trubey was a wonderful benefactor to the Ragdoll breed during their early years. During the many years of constant litigation with Ann Baker, he was always there for the Ragdolls with wise counsel and financial support. He had a great love and passion for the Ragdolls and wanted to see them succeed as a new breed within the various Cat Associations. He bitterly opposed her attempt to franchise the breed.

As 1978 drew to a close, the Ragdoll breed had had many “ups and downs” in pursuit of being accepted in the various cat associations. The learning curve as novice breeders, seemed almost insurmountable to gain recognition, but they NEVER gave up. They kept knocking on the door until someone finally opened it and let them in. With great perseverance and a growing number of breeders, they slowly began to change the attitudes about the Ragdolls within the various Cat Associations. By the end of the year the Ragdolls had been accepted into NCFA, CFF, Crown & UCF. Their biggest challenge lay just ahead, the acceptance of the Ragdoll by ACFA.

The biggest obstacle that the Ragdoll breeders faced, was the bias created by the outrageous claims made by Ann Baker who did not believe in showing the Ragdolls in the various Cat Associations, and she continued to bombard with her hate mail. There was the litigation followed by the threat of more litigation from her. And there was always questions to be answered about the origination of the breed, which was difficult to trance as Ann kept everything in her head. As the RFC prepared to move into the 80’s there would continue to be obstacles and litigation from Ann Baker, but they never looked back or wavered in their determination to see the Ragdoll accepted in ALL Cat Associations in ALL patterns and colors.

At a 1980 meeting of the RFC chaired by Denny Dayton, a discussion arose as to the requirements for the acceptance of the Ragdolls by CFA, and the steps the breeders must take to achieve acceptance. It was agreed that the first step would be to register all RFC catteries with CFA. The members all voted to begin the arduous climb and to begin registering their catteries immediately with CFA. Denny warned that CFA would be a toughie and would take several years as CFA had three steps to acceptance.

In May 1980 RFC was notified by the Advertising Manager of CATS Magazine Michael W. Brim, that effective 1 July 1980 the Ragdoll Breed Heading would be moved from the “experimental” section of the magazine. The Ragdolls were now being accepted as a REAL cat at last.

As we look back on our great heritage, I hope that we will never forget that all that we have today as a breed, is built on the foundation that they laid, and their can do–never say die spirit.

Written by Wain Pearce based upon information from the Ragdoll Society Newsletters.

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