American Girl Dolls
They first appeared in the 1980s, and even though I was still a kid when they debuted, I did not hear about them until I was in college. Their creator was an alum, so everyone on campus was familiar with the series. Today I am in my 30s and still enjoy looking through the catalog!
Each historic character has been created to educate girls about a specific time period, with some timeless moral lessons to apply to real life.
Every doll has a line of authentic historic costumes, furniture, and accessories that have been well-researched and documented. I have always been impressed by the accuracy of the props for each time period. For example, you can purchase a metal cookstove and handcrank washing machine for Kit (1934), a traditional wooden table for Kirsten (1854), and fancy Colonial-era gowns for Felicity (1774).
There is a series of books for each doll as well, which also encourages girls to read.
You can choose from a wide variety of girls representing important periods in American history:
Kaya (1764) is a Nez Perce girl learning about her culture
Felicity (1774) explores the tensions between her father, a Patriot, and her best friend’s father, a Loyalist
Josefina (1824) is a New Mexican girl struggling to preserve her culture’s way of life while embracing new ideas
Kirsten (1854) is a Swedish immigrant who is adjusting to a new world called America
Addy (1864) is a courageous young lady who escapes from slavery
Samantha (1904) is a Victorian girl being raised by her wealthy grandmother (she is retiring soon!)
Kit (1934) is growing up in the midst of the Great Depression
Molly (1944) learns about patriotism and self-sacrifice as World War II rages on
Julie (1974) is a fun-loving hippie child in San Francisco
No matter which doll a girl chooses as her special friend, there is a museum where she can go to see the real thing. These dolls are a wonderful way to get a girl interested in and excited about history!
After the creator sold the series to Mattel, they began to expand the modern doll offerings, creating limited edition dolls for one year only. You can now get a doll that looks like you by choosing a skin tone and hair and eye color. You can dress like your doll. You can even choose glasses or a wheelchair!
My only complaint with the whole series in the exorbitant price of the dolls, their clothing, and their furniture. It costs $105 for a doll, one book, and limited accessories! The furniture is expensive too. Samantha’s brass bed is $68, Addy’s lazy susan table and chairs is $75, and Kit’s treehouse is $250 (ironically, Kit is the doll who represents the Great Depression!). That puts these wonderful dolls way out of reach of most children today, particularly in this economy.
The American Girl franchise has become a phenomenon, with big screen movies and retail stores where you can bring your doll for lunch.
And it can all be yours, if you have a small fortune to shell out.
It really is too bad, because this is truly a wonderful series, with a positive message and realistic dolls. No hair-brained ditzy Barbie figures here. Just real girls, going on adventures and learning about life. I wish they were accessible to all girls, not just the wealthy ones.
Box sets of books are available for all the dolls:
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