Why an 11-year-old girl’s campaign for a new American Girl doll matters

Since 1986, American Girl dolls have been there to spark the imaginations of girls around the world. In case you’re unfamiliar, American Girl dolls represent different moments in American history, and each comes with a book about her life, her struggles, her family, and her world. Personally, I am a huge American Girl fan. I have three, and I feel no personal shame or guilt about this.

But one doll that I don’t have, that no one has, is an American Girl doll with a disability. And a brave young girl named Melissa Shang is looking to change all that. At just 10-years-old, she and her sister, YingYing, set up a petition on Change.org to rally for an American Girl doll with a disability.

Now 11, Shang has a form of muscular dystrophy known as Charcot-Marie-Tooth. She explains in her petition video why a doll with disabilities is so important to her:

It should be noted that you can buy an American Girl doll wheelchair on their website. It costs $38.00.

But even though there’s a wheelchair, there’s still no doll that comes with the wheelchair, and with her own story, and that’s important. There’s no reason why this doll shouldn’t exist. The American Girl dolls, have, for years, represented girls everywhere, from bespectacled Molly McIntire to Addy Walker, the company’s first African-American character. Girls can see themselves in these dolls more than they could see themselves in Barbie or Bratz dolls. But it’s hard to see yourself when no one out there is representing you.

The petition has received a major response; according to Change, it’s one of the fastest-growing ever. As of writing this, the sisters have 144,860 supporters and need only 5,140 more.

Earlier this month, a representative from American Girl gave a (kind of) promising statement about Shang’s petition to International Business Times“We receive hundreds of passionate requests to create a variety of dolls and books based on a wide range of circumstances, and we are always considering new ways to enhance our product lines,” said the rep.

In the meantime, Melissa is charging ahead, on a mission to create relatable resources for children with disabilities. She recently launched a Kickstarter with her mother and her sister to raise money to publish a book about living with her condition.

The book, about a middle school girl who has a neuromuscular disease, will aim to “tell the stories of all the girls who never get to see their own perspectives on the page.”

“American Girl has not yet promised to tell the story of a girl with disability as the main character,” Melissa writes on Kickstarter. “Our stories deserve to be heard. So, I’ve decided to write the book myself.”

(Image by Eva Shang via.)