Sunday, April 8, 2012

KIDDOS: American Girl

American Girl started in 1986 with a line of historical character dolls, all hailing from different races and nationalities. Each 'girl' was nine-years-old and lived in a different era of American history. They were 18" dolls that came with a storybook (and, later, a line of storybooks) telling stories about our country's history and that girl's place in it. The dolls were such a big hit (despite their outrageous price tag at over $100 per doll), that in 1995 the company expanded their doll collection and included accessories. Mattel bought the company in 1998.

I admit, I was a bit skeptical of these dolls for several reasons, one being their pricetag was so high, but after Lucy got Julie, a girl growing up in San Francisco in the 1970s with divorced hippie parents, I changed my mind. We have now read all seven books in Julie's collection and I like reading them with Lucy. The books share some of the history of the time period and got Lucy interested in what was happening then, so much so that we ended up researching more about political movements and women's rights. Also, the 'girls' often overcome some sort of adversity in a positive way, which is always a good lesson for our daughters to hear.
Alice recently got a Bitty Baby, American Girl's line of baby dolls for 3-6 year olds. While cute, they aren't really that interesting, as they don't come with a name or a specific story. I didn't purchase either of these dolls or their expensive accompanying accessories (Grandma did). The dolls are standard 18" dolls, though, so you can easily find less expensive clothing at thrift stores, craft fairs, and places like Target. We've made some fun 'bedrooms' for the dolls with stuff we already have, and I made a great haul of 1970s bellbottoms and praire-style dresses for Julie at an antique shop in Idaho Falls recently. The accompanying American Girl books and movies are all available at our local library and are pretty well done, in my opinion. It's been fun to explore American history with Lucy this way, through dolls and play, something she can relate to.


  1. Your girls are so sweet with their dolls!
    I have had many of the same thoughts about American Girl dolls - the price tag is quite hefty, and we have one of the big shops here, where you can go pick out a million accessories, have lunch with your doll, and get spa treatments with your doll. I've come to the conclusion that I'm really more upset about the big shop's marketing ploys than the actual dolls, which truly are wonderful ways to explore history.

  2. Total love/hate relationship for us too! Eden has Julie, Kanani, and Emily. The books are fun to read and really have great messages. I have NOT purchased any of the dolls for Eden. Julie was given to her from her dad. The other two Eden used her own money for (from Birthday and Christmas). It is nice to have that option to give as gift ideas for the clothes and such. We have a store near us, which is fun, but ridiculous all at the same time. I figure that they are only this age once though, so why not let them play with dolls that have a great message. Eden is 10 and I know her time will end here soon. She says she wants to buy Ivy next, so I hope she hasn't outgrown them before she has the money again. Ivy is my fave! haha.

  3. Kate, I share your concern with the marketing and they've really got a racket going. Plus, I'm a little disturbed that they are so expensive, therefore, lower income kids can't have the chance to enjoy them....that being said, Ali, I also agree that they are only young once and I love Julie. And TOTALLY want Alice to get Ivy so they can be best friends :). -Amy

  4. Amy, My daughter is 14 1/2 and just went to the American Girl store in Seattle (not as cool as some of the other stores, very basic) last month. She has been collecting the dolls since she was 8, right after she played with my cousins older dolls for the first time. My daughter has gained quite a collection over the years, many gifts and some purchased with her own money (which she doesn't spend very lightly). Her only birthday wish when she turned 14 was to visit the store before she got any older :). She brought her own money and smiled from ear to ear the entire time we spent at the store. In a society that is filled with misrepresentatin of what a girl should be, both physically and socially, I love and support American Girls entirely! The American girls educate our daughters on history, encourage positive self esteem, and also social justice. India was gifted and American Girl from a friend/neighbor when she stood up for the friends daughter at school who was being bullied. India being shy this was a very big deal for her to do. I could go on and go, but in a home where barbies and bratz dolls are not allowed, I welcome fully my daughters love of American Girls Dolls. I realize that the price on these dolls is expensive and that the company lost some of it's home-grown roots when sold to Mattel. But the truth is they will be passed down to my daughters children because of the quality and if you are really thrifty you can find some used dolls for a forth of the cost on Ebay. India has purchased some of her dolls that way. So as far as the Love-Hate relationship, I lean toward a whole lot of Love! Just my opinion and thanks for the article!
    ~Ali Roper