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American Girl Dolls: Positive Role Models For Girls

Updated on December 1, 2014

If you've never heard of American Girl dolls, then probably (a) you may not be from the United States, (b) you've been a parent of only boys or (c) you've never been a parent. Trust me, I am none of those things and so I know way too much about those little dolls who took America by storm in 1986. American Girl dolls were invented by Pleasant T. Rowland, a former schoolteacher married to a book publisher. Besides being a teacher, Rowland was a history buff and on a trip to Colonial Williamsburg, the idea of creating a doll that could teach little girls about American history came to her. The rest is doll history with Rowland building a doll empire called Pleasant Company, later selling it to Mattel for a whopping $700 million, and continuing to produce a line of dolls that is second only to Barbie in sales.

Kirsten Larson, Now Retired


American Girl Dolls

The first three American girl dolls to be released were Molly McIntire, Kirsten Larson, and Samantha Parkington. Each historical doll in the American girl line has a biography from a different time period in America's history:

Kirsten Larson- 1854, living in the pioneer days of Minnesota, now retired

Samantha Parkington & her friend Nellie O'Malley- 1904, also retired

Felicity Merriman & her first friend Elizabeth Cole - 1774, from Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia., retired

Molly McIntire & her friend, Emily - 1944

Addy Walker- 1864, a slave girl from North Carolina

Kaya- 1764, a Native American girl from the Nez Perce tribe

Josefina Montoya- 1824, from a ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Kit Kittredge and her friend, Ruthie Smithens- 1934

Julie Albright & her friend, Ivy Ling - 1974

Rebecca Ruben- 1914, who was the first American Girl doll who was Jewish

Cecile Rey & Marie Grace- 1850s, New Orleans



Girls As Heroines

One of the great things about the American Girl doll line is that each one of the dolls comes with a set of books written about her and her exploits, her friends, her family, and what was going on in the country in that time period. Many of the characters is lacking a strong male in their lives which creates a situation where the females have to step up to the plate in their absence. Samantha Parkington is an orphan raised by her grandmother. Kit Kittredge's father leaves the family to find work and her mother has to open a boarding house to make ends meet. Gwen Thompson, a doll released in 2009, is a homeless girl being raised by her mother after her father left the family. This common and recurring thread only adds to the strength of the female characters portrayed in the American Girl stories.

The Now Retired Samantha Parkington

American Girl Dolls "Save The Day"

In each of the historical American Girl doll's accompanying book series, there is a "Save The Day" book...ex., Kirsten Saves The Day, Josefina Saves The Day, etc. This gives young girls the message that they are strong and powerful beings and that their actions can have great impact on their lives, the lives of those around them, and even the world, that they, too, can "save the day.".

It also helps that American Girl dolls are made in so many different ethnicities that little girls are sure to find one to whom they can relate. In 2001, American Girl launched the Girl of the Year line, each as a response to what little girls were asking for as far as looks, interests, and hobbies. They even have a My American Girl product line where girls can go in online and create a doll that looks like them down to eye color, skin tone, hair color, and style. The dolls are also available with glasses, in wheelchairs, etc.


American Girl DollsToo Expensive?

Many people see the American Girl doll line as an elitist kind of symbol, an expensive doll only upper class families can afford to give their children, because of the price. At around $100 a doll, they are not exactly dolls that any parent can afford. Although this is an issue, it could also be used to teach young girls who want one a few lessons: (a) the value of money, (b) delayed gratification, and (c) working for something you want. My own child used money she earned to buy an American Girl doll. Knowing that she was working toward something she wanted made her study a lot harder and made her value the doll so much more.


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    • DIYweddingplanner profile image

      DIYweddingplanner 5 years ago from South Carolina, USA

      Malenk, I wish I had time to sew clothes for them, that would be such fun. I did pick up a little kit that has an apron for the doll and a matching one for the little girl, so can't wait to do that one.

    • malenk profile image

      malenk 5 years ago from Chandler, AZ

      I love AG dolls too and I am especially addicted to sewing clothes for them.

    • DIYweddingplanner profile image

      DIYweddingplanner 6 years ago from South Carolina, USA

      I just ordered Cecile and Maria-grace as door prizes for our next tea at work. They're gorgeous!

    • malenk profile image

      malenk 6 years ago from Chandler, AZ

      Love the photo of Ivy Ling, she's my next target to add to my collection, as well as Cecile and Marie-Grace, they are all so pretty, I want to get all of them.

    • DIYweddingplanner profile image

      DIYweddingplanner 6 years ago from South Carolina, USA

      I agree, Jane, the Bratz dolls seem a little too grown-up and a little scary looking for little girls!

    • Jane Bovary profile image

      Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore

      These dolls look lovely and they're new to me too..such a contrast to those repulsive Bratz creatures.

    • DIYweddingplanner profile image

      DIYweddingplanner 6 years ago from South Carolina, USA

      Truckstop, I read about the fashion shows on their website and think that's a great idea. We do a tea every year and have a reading contest at the library and give away a doll to the winner. Such a cute event and all the girls bring their dolls!

    • Truckstop Sally profile image

      Truckstop Sally 6 years ago

      Love this hub. My daughter looks just like Kirsten. And she has a few more too. Now boxed away for a granddaughter . . . whenever. I volunteered for a non-profit that was lucky enough to perform the AG fashion shows. The group made lots of $, and everyone who attended the teas, luncheons, had fun.

    • DIYweddingplanner profile image

      DIYweddingplanner 6 years ago from South Carolina, USA

      Thanks, Ann. It's probably best that you don't have them there, because they're very addictive!

    • annmackiemiller profile image

      annmackiemiller 6 years ago from Bingley Yorkshire England

      I'm not from the US so I had never heard of them. They look great and a much more positive role model than Barbie dolls. Well done YOU

    • DIYweddingplanner profile image

      DIYweddingplanner 6 years ago from South Carolina, USA

      Thanks, Shogan. I'm ashamed to say how many we have! But we did pick some of ours up on e-bay!

    • shogan profile image

      shogan 6 years ago from New England

      My daughter has one, and loves it too much. I think it's the Nellie O'Malley. Great article, DIY!