An Open Letter to Pleasant Company

Regarding: The Retirement of Historical American Girl Dolls

When I was 21 years old, my dad took me to New York City.  On our excursion downFifth Avenue, I took him on a tour of the American Girl Store.  I’m not really a shopping person; I’m not really even a doll person.  But I am a story person.

The stories of Felicity, Kirsten, and Molly captivated me when I was a little girl (Samantha and Addy became more interesting to me later).  From Felicity, I learned about Colonial Williamsburg.  From Kirsten, I learned about cholera, immigration,Sweden (I’d still like to learn Swedish one day), St. Lucia, barn-raising, and that I should never be-pet a raccoon.  From Molly, I learned about Victory gardens, the Home Front, and that eight times seven is fifty-six. Despite living in a different world, these were still little girls with hearts like mine, conflicts and friendships that I could relate to across geography and time.  I look like Kirsten and I act like Felicity. I especially enjoyed that I was born in 1985, and was thus also nine years old in the “4” of the following decade.  Through our stories, I will be forever connected to these girls.

There is a movement these days.  It’s subtle and sneaky and remains mostly off the radar but I it’s having a profound impact on our youth.  It’s a movement selfward.  Through advertising, marketing, innovation, and technology, we are teaching our youth that life is all about them.  All about creating our own individual worlds.  All the while, our youth (and even many adults) are struggling with suicidal thoughts, narcissism, and antisocial behavior.  Let’s be honest, our world has slowly provided our youth with only one narrative and purpose: themselves.  And that can get pretty lonely.

As important as it is for us to help our youth cultivate confidence through an individual identity, it is equally important for our youth to know they are not alone.  They have meaning and purpose in being placed exactly where they are in history and geography.  They have gifts and talents unique to them but which can and should be applied to helping others.  My connection to the historical American girls is rooted in story; they not only educated me about different eras, but highlighted the specialness of my own story in my own time.

As I prepare for the birth of my first child, a daughter, I find myself decorating her nursery in traditional Williamsburg decor, inspired mostly by two posters I have had for years.  One is a map of the colonial Williamsburg that Felicity Merriman lived in and the other is a poster of Kirsten Larsen reading under an apple tree.  The stories of these girls touched my heart as a little girl.  I want my daughter to know she is a part of something bigger, so I am surrounding her as early as possible with narratives that complement her own in the hopes that she will see herself as a unique little girl that is also a part of a big, wide world.

My plea: Resist the temptation to allow marketing and this selfward movement drive the products you offer the new little girls.  Inspire them to be great in their own generation by offering them the stories of those who have gone before.

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