From Our Readers

American Girls: In Honor of 25 Years of Dolls, 250 Years of History

I am an American Girl. Just like Felicity, Kirsten, Addy, Samantha, and Molly, I am an American Girl.  I learned about my nation’s history and about girlhood from extremely expensive 18” plastic young women.  As a voting citizen and American adult, I would now like to thank my matriarchs and sisters, true pioneers, rebels and spunky characters of their time.

Dear Samantha (1904)
Thank you for being a beautiful, sophisticated New York woman, and my first introduction to American Girls. You were everything I wanted to be, and when my cousin threw a Samantha-themed birthday party and we went to Rumplemeyer’s Ice Cream Shoppe and rode around Central Park in horse-drawn carriages, I wore a maroon dress  and my mom’s old muff in your honor.  Props to you also for handling orphanhood with maturity and grace.

Dear Molly (1944)
Thank you for being my first and only 18’ American Girl Doll.  Thank you for your quirky glasses and beret; they made it okay for me to be me. When I went to a tea party, I ordered the white-trimmed dress you wear for parties, and I felt like a million bucks.  You also taught me a lot about patriotism during World War II, and about the importance of rations, and sending letters to those overseas. I also always loved your combination of brown hair and green eyes.

Dear Felicity (1774)
Thank you for being my sister’s doll, and since she didn’t really care for dolls, my doll too. I envied your red hair and loved to brush it before covering it with a colonial bonnet.  Thank you for representing an America I never felt a connection to, because of my family’s more recent immigration to this continent. You were a true Patriot, riding your horse and fighting for the creation of this fine Republic.

Dear Kirsten (1854)
Where to begin? Thank you for an amazing journey from Sweden to Minnesota, a story which I adapted for a performance in the backyard at my first sleepover birthday (age 7).  To emulate your blonde hair, I cut stockings and braided them into the pigtails you wore. Thank you for giving me a way to connect to my Scandinavian babysitters, and for introducing me to your Native American friend Singing Bird (tribe unknown) and for constantly speaking for her.  Thank you for later being a subject of a paper I wrote in college where I critiqued your whole narrative of the frontier.  I didn’t mean it, and I know you know that.

To each of you, I am forever grateful, yet ever skeptical of how you shaped me.

Emily (2011)

You can read more from Emily on her Twitter.

feature image via American Girl.

  • Elizabeth Nunn

    I recently got an American Girl catalog (addressed to my address, along with the name I went by when I was 9) after visiting their website once (I didn’t fill out anything) and it felt like fate. I never actually bought anything, as it was too expensive, but I loved the books and the catalogs. Great article! Molly was always my favorite. :)

  • Robin Epley

    I had a Samantha because she looked like me and that’s how I got interested in Victorian culture and literature, which pretty much directly led to me becoming an English Literature major. Thanks American Girl!

  • Dana Colburn-Gallo

    I received a Kirsten doll for my 7th or 8th bday back in the 1980s when the company was called “The Pleasant Company” and not “American Girl” yet lol. My fav part was the books. I’m 31 now and they are still good enough to read.

  • Lauren Alvarez

    I had a molly doll when I was in 5th grade. She had all the coolest accessories including a mini version of my 3rd grade math book! I always loved the way the doll smelled like clean vinyl. As a kid I would sniff Molly’s neck and think “ahh this is what quality smells like”…no seriously I thought that :). I remember trying to put on one of molly’s plays with my friends, and attempting to knit a scarf with the knitting nelly. The best was going to the American girl tea ahhh those were the days. I still have molly and all her fun accessories packed away to give to my daughter when I have kids…or maybe I wont. Maybe I’ll just pull her out every now and then, give her sniff and keep her for myself hehehe.

  • Julianne Goble

    I had a Samantha doll, still do actually haha. I loved the American Girl books and read every single one of them, it’s what made me interested in history!!

  • Terryn McGillicuddy Yates

    I still have my Josefina doll. I was kind of “into” Mexico.

  • Lorehorrible Ciora

    I had a Molly doll. I ruined her perfectly braided hair by attempting to wash it. Never got those braids back again. I also had a Kirsten doll, which also had braided hair. I learned my lesson and left it alone. I had many of Molly’s accessories, but being the careless child that I was, I lost most of them. I also had the American Girls PC game, to which I’d like to credit for molding me into such a warped individual. I made some really messed up plays in that game. Many involving witchcraft, murder, lynch mobs, psychotic individuals, demon-possession…if anything, I learned about American history and developed a very vivid, wild imagination. Thank you, American Girls.

  • Sarah Moore

    I had Kirsten and Addy when I was a child and I loved them! My daughter just turned 6 and she received her first American Girl (Rebecca) for her birthday. It’s really cool to be able to share the experience with her.

  • Jaclyn Michelle Vallow

    Thank you American Girl for allowing me to have an outstanding childhood and imagination to go along with it. Those dolls kept me out of so much trouble. I remember playing with them until I was about 13 (I know some people think that’s ridiculous). As I still played with my American Girl dolls, there were girls in my 8th grade class pregnant. Thank you for keeping my innocence for as long as possible.

  • Sundae Jameson

    i love it

  • Katherine Gregor

    I had Felicity because she was a redhead and because she was the only one who wore long dresses. Later when I figured out the difference between the Colonial and Victorian eras and decided Victorian was better I wanted Samantha, but did not get her. Felicity time-traveled so graciously in my playtime escapades that as the years wore on I didn’t really mind.

  • Mandy Mrosko

    I’ve always been blonde, but I’ve also always worn glasses. my first American Girl doll was molly (for the glasses) and i’ve loved WW2 as long as i can remember. Since then I’ve also received a blonde ‘look like you’ doll (black sweater, red vinyl jumper). I went to an American Girl fashion show when i was a kid. I’d read my friend’s hand-me-down AG magazines. This company was a huge part of my childhood, and probably a big reason for my love of history. I’ve still got my dolls (molly’s arm is only partially on anymore, and her hair’s a mess), and a number of molly outfits in storage (though one of my dolls is always out on a stand). love it all! even if i never have kids (or at least, daughters), i’ve got lots of cousins and two brothers, so i can always share with their kids! :)

  • Erica Lee

    I had Josephina. Some of my best childhood memories were practicing the American Girl plays with my friends.

  • Lindsay Ascher Széchényi

    I had Samantha – I just thought she was so beautiful and thought she had the prettiest clothes and furniture! I was in Chicago recently and stopped by American Girl Place and was so pissed to learn that they don’t sell Samantha anymore and they didn’t even have her on display! :(

  • Lorrie Colin Spoering

    I hate to correct you, but Molly has grey eyes!

    I had Molly (8th Christmas) and then my mom got me Addy (got herself Addy) when I was 12. My daughter is now into American Girls and got one of the ones you pick the eye and hair colors while I was pulling for one of the historical. At least she’s decking her girl out for history!

  • Kirsten Zoe Hyer

    Oh Kirsten. The best American Girl doll, the one that shared my name, my Midwestern home and my Scandinavian immigrant history. You were awesome. When you were discontinued I cried. (it had been a bad day to be fair) I just may take you out tonight for the memory of it.

  • Kim Morrison

    I got a Samantha doll right when the company started. It was inexpensive at the time b/c it was a new thing. I think there were like three of them and they were all the exact same but with different hair. It was cool to be the first in my class to have one ( I had two eventually, Samantha and Felicity) and I cannot wait to give it to my little girl when she wants it!

  • Alexandra Victoria Klint

    Way too expensive but I loved pretending with the catalog and I read every Molly book I could get my hands on!

  • Danni Marie

    I got my Kirsten doll when I was 10. In the years that followed, I ended up cutting off a lot of her hair, brushing her “teeth” and painting her nails. Since then, thanks to the doll hospital, I pretty much restored her to her original glory, with the last fix happening just a couple of years ago when I got her a new head.
    That last doll visit was timed so that she’d look all brand new for when I got my Samantha and Nellie best friends collection which I ordered just before they retired. I didn’t want my 10+ year old doll to look all grubby next to the new dolls! I ordered these two because Samantha had also been a favorite and back when I was 10, it was a hard choice between Sam and Kirsten.
    I’m really glad I have my favorite dolls! Though, I’m debating if when I have a daughter I will let her play with them or if I’ll just keep them on display since all three are now retired.
    I am just sorry that I couldn’t afford to get Felicity when she was retiring…

  • Samantha Mann

    I am so jealous you had a doll. I loved the books so much – my mom purchased the Samantha set because I was so annoyed that so few people had my name in my school, and I checked out the other books from the school library. I savored the catalogs since I knew we couldn’t afford the dolls, but loved seeing all the books come to “life”. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

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