The American Girl doll collection was not the average toy for little girls. Each doll had a story and an important role in American history. Now the company is slowly discontinuing these dolls for dolls into baking or organic gardening.
Former schoolteacher Pleasant T. Rowland founded American Dolls in 1986. Rowland loved history and thought more girls would be interested if they had a doll to accompany a specific time period. Each doll came with six books that looked at the time period through the doll. It was easy for any girl to be drawn into history and walk in their footsteps.
Samantha, a Victorian aristocrat, was taught about the children in factories and had to confront upper-class adults about fixing it. Pioneer Kirsten learned about Native American persecution when her friend had to move. Young Addy escaped slavery on the eve of the Civil War with her family. Felicity was a colonial tomboy who had to learn about being a young lady in her family. Molly had to endure sacrifices while her father was fighting in World War II.
Mattel bought American Girl in 1998 and slowly the historic dolls were put in the shadows. American Girl spokeswoman Stephanie Spanos said it was to make room for new inventory and still considers them the heart of the company. But Samantha, Kirsten, and Felicity are no longer sold. Now Molly is being “archived.”
While the historic dolls faced real world challenges, the newer ones are soft and do not offer any educational significance. The dolls now face local problems like saving an arts program or stopping a neighbor from using pesticides. Amy Schiller at The Atlantic said, “[P]erhaps the time has come for a doll who takes her fourth-grade class on a field trip to Occupy Wall Street.”
The dolls now are generic and no different than any other doll on the shelf. It is truly the end of an era.