American Girl Dolls Really Need to Get Back to Their Roots
“…The storylines that I remember best from the American Girl books are the ones where the characters interacted with the big issues of their times. Samantha marches for women’s suffrage and demands better child labor laws, Molly knits socks with her classmates for the war effort, Felicity eschews gender norms in Colonial America and Addy grapples with racism and segregation. The beautiful outfits and fun (overpriced) accessories featured in the catalogs were likely part of what drew many of us to these dolls. But it’s the stories and the bravery of the characters that stayed with us after we stopped wanting to dress up like them.
It’s not often that young girls have the opportunity to see themselves in stories of U.S. history. Growing up, American Girls gave us a reason to learn about and relate to topics that might be hard for an elementary school child to connect with otherwise. As a white 6-year-old reading about Addy Walker’s journey on the underground railroad, I was able to connect with the cruelty of slavery in a way that I wasn’t in my classrooms.
The American Girl books didn’t shy away from unpleasant time periods in U.S. history – they forced young girls to confront them and think critically about the world. Somehow I doubt that a doll who is fashioned only to "look like me” has quite the same impact.“
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