My Love/Hate Relationship With American Girl

My Love/Hate Relationship With American Girl

I don’t remember how it started. One day, my daughters were wholly unaware of the existence of American Girl, and the next, they were debating which $100 doll they wanted.  Overnight, American Girl fever gripped my house.

I can’t blame my daughters.  I remember when I first encountered the American Girl dolls, as a teenager babysitting for the lucky 6-year-old who owned the brand-new Samantha and Kirsten dolls, which at that time were mail-order only, before Mattel bought out Pleasant Rowland’s business.  I had never seen such dolls.  Even as a 17-year-old (who had never been into dolls, really), I loved to page through the American Girl catalog.

The offerings–and the marketing hype–have expanded dramatically since those early American Girl days.  There are now more than a dozen historic dolls (compared to the original 3), and they all have their clothes, books, furniture and accessories.

There is much to love about American Girl dolls.  Their bodies are realistic.  (Do you remember hearing that Barbie doesn’t have enough body fat to menstruate?  No worries on that account with American Girl.)  The dolls’ historical settings are interesting and educational.  And they’re very well-made.

My girls love the books that come with each historical character.  My 6-year-old leapt from the Bob Books to the American Girl books because she was determined to read the dolls’ stories.  The local library has a dedicated American Girl rack, so we’re never without a half-dozen American Girl books in the house.

We own one bona-fide American Girl doll–Felicity, who resides in Williamsburg, circa 1776.  My 6-year-old has toted her everywhere, dressed her, fed her, read bedtime stories to her, and slept beside her.  She’s sewn Felicity new clothes, and made her furniture out of sticks and cardboard boxes.

There’s a lot I love about the American Girl dolls, and the stories they’re so deliberately placed in.  Peggy Orenstein, author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter, hated (hated!) the Disney Princesses, but she had largely good things to say about American Girl:   “Reading the books, though, I was struck by their presentation of the past as a time not only in which girls were improbably independent, feisty, and apparently without constraint but, in a certain way, in which they were more free than they are today: a time when their character mattered more than their clothing, when a girl’s actions were more important than how she looked or what she owned–a time before girlhood was consumed and defined by consumerism.”

And yet, there’s a lot that makes me uncomfortable about American Girl.

For starters, there’s the price tag.  A new American Girl doll is $100, and that’s before you do the clothes, accessories, furniture, books and matching doll-girl outfits.  Peggy Orenstein notes the irony: “the simplicity of American Girl is expensive.”  Indeed it is.

Then there’s the branding.  I hate the idea of my little girl being pitched.  She loves to read the books and flip through the catalog–but she does this not just as a little girl who loves her doll, but as a marketing target.  (That’s why the catalog gets parked on my bookshelf and not hers.)  For every scene in every book, there’s a $48 outfit to bring it to life.  And some really expensive furniture to go with it.

I forget why my little girl decided that she wanted Felicity instead of Molly, or Kit, or Samantha.  But I remember the day she regretted that decision.  We’d brought “Meet Samantha” home from the library, and daughter noticed that of all the dolls, Samantha was the only one described as “a beauty” on her book jacket.  By 6-year-old logic (and I swear I didn’t teach her this stuff), beautiful is best, and she wished she’d gotten Samantha instead of Felicity (who’s described as “a spunky colonial girl”).  The phase was short-lived, but it unsettled me.

And then there are the stories!

There’s a lot of admirable pluck and spunk going on in these stories, but there are also a lot of ugly sibling relationships.  Brothers come off especially badly:  in the American Girl books, brothers are nothing but trouble (unless they’re babies, then they’re allowed to be “cute”).  Packaging Girlhood puts it well:  “As troublesome, mischievous pests, [boys] are set up in opposition to showcase the niceness of the girls….It gives the message that boys can’t be deep and loyal friends to girls.”  This is hardly what I want to teach my daughters about the opposite sex.

I love the American Girl dolls.  And I hate them.  I wish I had it easy, and could wholeheartedly endorse these dolls–and their messages.  Instead, they’re providing my family with an opportunity to teach our girls to think critically.

And that may serve my daughters best in the long run.

Readers–what do you think about American Girl?  Did you have an American Girl doll?  Does your daughter?  Share your thoughts and experiences in comments!

For every scene in every book, there’s an outfit and accessory package that runs $48 to go with it.

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  1. Ashley says:

    I had Molly. I loved her when I was little, but you’re right, I do think differently about these dolls now that I’m older. I still think I’ll let my future daughter have one.

  2. KT says:

    I still have packed away the Felicity and Samantha that I had as a late elementary school student. My mom was very hesitant to pay then then $80 charged, and so asked me to save allowance money to pitch in for part of the cost. I did, and when we ordered the doll she was shocked by the quality. It was wonderful. I got my first doll in 4th grade and even then was old enough to understand that there were definitely some anachronisms in the supposed historical fiction stories. But I did enjoy them. For furniture my mom stained craft store doll furniture and anything from the catalogue was a treasured Christmas or birthday gift. This was before the days of the first American Girl store. Now there’s one a mile from my apartment with a girl/doll spa (!), a restaurant, and more. I appreciate that my parents worked hard to encourage the advantages of the fun I had with my dolls without falling prey to some of the disadvantages. I’ve kept those dolls so that should any of my future kids, one of whom will be here in February, turn out to be a girl I will have a bona fide doll for her. She may not get to pick her favorite, but she will get a good condition doll who really is built well enough to be an heirloom. And then I’ll try to help my daughter balance enjoying the good of the dolls without falling prey to the pitfalls. And those pitfalls do seem to have multiplied ever since Mattel – grr – bought the line.

  3. DFrazzled says:

    I loved them from the historical side of things but was more into books than dolls, and I loved learning what life might be like for girls in history. As for the thought about boys not being allowed to form deep friendships with girls–I think this more likely reflects girls’ own attitudes toward boys at this age.

    If you are looking for a series that allows more character development in this way, I suggest the Elsie Dinsmore series by Martha Finley, which follows the growing-up of this little girl into teenage years and womanhood, even as a wife, mother, business owner in pre-Civil war times. I did not allow my then 7-yr-old girl to finish the series, as the themes became to old for her as the series went on. Now that she’s 10 we might bring them back out to enjoy the rest of Elsie’s story together. They promote healty relationships between father/child, turning to God in all circumstances, forgiveness, proper behavior during dating, love and respect in marriage, and so on.

    • KT says:

      I’m not sure that one should endorse Elsie Dinsmore without qualifications, and I say this as someone who owns the vintage burgundy hardback version of the books through number 27 (!). Elsie is a little legalist whose own personal strivings in the Christian faith are held up as near perfect, rather than promoting a reliance on the grace of God through the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit to enable obedience in the faith. The attitudes of the ante- and later in the stories post-bellum South towards the value of non-white Americans are naturally present and younger children will need care and caution when explaining to a child. The affection that Elsie’s much older husband feels towards her as a young child is not something I would encourage in any nearing middle aged man and while May-December relationships can be a fine thing I’m sure I would be leery of my daughter entering into one like Elsie did. There are good themes in the books, but especially the lack of a sense of sin in Elsie (while she might view herself as a sinner, few other characters in the book do and you can get what the author thinks from what her characters think) is distressing.

  4. I had Samantha when I was little (and I’m sure my mom kept it if I have a daughter someday) and I absolutely loved her – but American Girl was much simpler then. There were only a few outfits for each doll (my parents always bought me the knock-off anyway) and there weren’t American Girl books, scrapbooks, crafts, etc. other than the things that specifically went with the dolls. Now it is a marketing ploy and I don’t find the stories to be as good or genuine anymore. I don’t know that if I had a daughter she would be getting any American Girl stuff – although she can play with my old Samantha!

  5. This is a very thoughtful post. My girls don’t have an American doll, but my oldest is only 5, so I suspect her interest will come soon.
    And although we haven’t experienced them yet as a family, I think I would agree with the love/hate that you described.

  6. I was introduced to the American Girls at the age of 6 or 7. A friend had some extras of the books and gave them to me. I remember staying up late (late for a six-year-old! 🙂 ) reading in the light from the hall. My mom was very sick shortly before giving birth to my sister and I read her “Happy Birthday, Kirsten” in which Kirsten’s mom has a baby. Molly was always my favorite, so that’s the doll I got for Christmas when I was 8 or 9. I had ONE matching outfit that was actually from American Girl (her pajamas). My mom and I put together an outfit to match her camp clothes out of clothes I already had. I had a few of her outfits from the magazine, but my grandma bought me off-brand clothes for dolls her size and I have more of those than the American Girl ones. My sister has a Bitty Baby and one of the look-alike dolls.

    I did notice how brothers were generally negatively portryaed. But I remember Kit’s friend Will, who was a hobo, and he was a positive male friend. So was Ben, Felicity’s friend.

    I love how positively fathers are portrayed in the books: hard workers, providing for their family, loving toward their wives and children. Mother-daughter relationships are good, too. And friendship is so positive and important.

    Obviously the books don’t teach Christianity, and I came across a few things I didn’t agree with theologically in the Molly books (in the Christmas one, Molly’s mom tells her, “That’s what Christmas is all about- hope.” Even as a nine-and-ten-year-old, I knew Christmas is all about JESUS. 🙂 )

    Also the newest doll, Julie, is a VERY typical 70’s girl–her parents are divorced, for one, and she’s very immersed in the 70’s culture. I didn’t appreciate that.

    I loved my American Girl doll, and I very much enjoyed reading the books. I will probably have my little girls read the books, but if the dolls get much more expensive they just won’t know they exist. 🙂 It’s all about discernment: what kind of lessons are you teaching your children based upon what they’re reading/playing/learning?

    • Audrey says:

      Really great comments, Jaimie. I forgot to touch on fathers and mothers in the books. I was happy that they were for the most part portrayed in a very positive light, which is not something always seen in books targeted for this age group.

      I also wish faith was more a part of some of the stories. It’s been awhile since I read the books, but I remember Josefina’s and Kirsten’s books touching on their religion. I read a comment on Amazon about one of the Kaya books that noted how much her [pagan] faith was incorporated into the story and lamenting that the other girls’ books did not reflect their particular creeds.

      I just rolled my eyes when Julie came out. It felt like they were trying to be very politically correct. Plus, I think her clothes and styles are very ugly!

      • As much as I appreciate that the American Girl doll company brings us such gorgeous dolls, I don’t think that it is up to them to teach my children religious beliefs. So far, the company has just touched on different religions just to show our children that there are different religions in the world and I commend them for their efforts. However, “touch” on religion is as far as it should go. We, as parents, should shoulder our own responsibility in that realm. When I told my granddaughter what you said, “Christmas was about Jesus and not about hope” her comment was, “But grandma, you said that Jesus was the hope of the world.” Out of the mouth of babes!
        When I read Julie’s story I was hoping that it might help some little girl get through her own troubles in the environment of a divorce. The 1970’s was a very turbulent era, not wrapped up in pink ribbons, but trampled on with go-go boots.

  7. Catherine Lucia says:

    As a current 17-year-old (who, I’m not gonna lie, still wishes my childhood weren’t over so I could still play with dolls – haha!), I don’t know what this is like from a parent’s perspective. But I can say that American Girl left a great impression on me as a kid. They’re part of the reason I fell in love with history, and the Kaya doll (the one I really grew to love as a kid) got me interested in Native American culture. In fact, all the dolls gave me such an appreciation for other cultures, and even more, like you noted in the post, that these dolls were all about character rather than looks.

    I never noticed the boys-are-evil thing, but I also had a lot of friends who were boys as a kid (and now) – that was a message that never bothered sinking in because I had firmly formed opinions on that. The character-rather-than-looks message did sink in, because then as now I and many of my girl friends are pretty insecure about looks and how important they are. I needed that message, and for whatever reason, dolls were the perfect medium for that.

  8. I always wanted to have a girl because I loved these stories…..but, alas, I will soon have 2 boys – and I think we’re stopping there. Thanks for popping by and commenting. I always love hearing from my readers. 🙂 Have a great weekend!!!!

  9. I never had an American Girl, but I remember wanting them. My niece has read a few of the books, but is past the doll stage, so doesn’t own any of them. My girls are still too young for them, but I’ve not given it much thought about what we’ll do when they might ask for one.

  10. Tori says:

    I’ve only got boys, and I was a never a baby-doll-loving kind of girl, but I agree that constant barrage of advertising is a difficult thing to keep our kids away from. Like you, I HATE it when my kids are targeted, and we talk a lot about recognizing marketing ploys so that we can be smart consumers, purchasing an item because we choose to rather than being manipulated into it. Very good points that you made.


  11. Audrey says:

    What a coincidence that you should write this because I have been thinking about writing something on my blog about my conflicting feelings with these dolls. I grew up with the American Girls. I received a Bitty Baby for Christmas when I was four and later scrimped and saved for a long time to buy Kristen (I think now what better things I could’ve done with $89…or however much they used to be). My family was never wealthy, but my mom loved the historical aspect of the dolls and the beautiful clothes, so many a Christmas and birthday I received an outfit as my big gift (they were more like $20 per outfit back then, though). I’ve read all the stories up until the ones coming after Kaya, and I have to say that I really loved them. AG was very much a part of my childhood, and it was mostly a very happy part. I love that the dolls came with books that brought the stories to life, and that the dolls were meant to be innocent and spunky, not sexy. I also appreciate that they celebrate girlhood, imagination, and family. That said, I wasted a lot of time mulling over all of the THINGS I wanted from the catalogs, and I feel the commercial aspect has gotten much worse since Rowling sold the company to Mattel. I admire the founder for bringing history alive to young girls, but I have mixed feelings about the company being the pioneer that opened up the–now huge–tween girl market. But I doubt that impact was one that many people foresaw. It also makes me a little sad that the focus of the company has shifted more now, and that they’ve retired many of my favorite dolls (Felicity, Elizabeth, Samantha, Nellie, and Kirsten have all been archived.) As a side note, I find it ironic that the dolls aren’t even made in America!

    It’s funny that you mention Samantha as the pretty one, because I always thought her doll was rather boring compared to some of the other ones (like Felicity). I know she was an extremely popular at one time, though, so something about her must have appealed to a lot of girls. Maybe it was that description!

    Interesting that you brought up the brothers-as-pests angle. I never noticed that (perhaps it’s because I have six brothers of my own so I could kind of relate to it. Haha, not really. My brothers are quite nice *most* of the time. :)) I’m now racking my brain for what the brothers were like in the books (it’s been awhile since I’ve read them). I know Molly had some pesky brothers, and Samantha’s neighbor Eddie was always playing tricks on her. Other than that I’m having a hard time coming up with anyone. Felicity only had a little brother, I think, and she ultimately became friends with Ben–her father’s apprentice. I don’t recall any sibling rivalry amongst Kristen or Addy (though I could be mistaken). Kit had an older brother that she was quite close to. Josefina doesn’t have any brothers. Who am I missing?

    That book Packaging Girlhood sounds really good. I will have to check it out. Thanks for another great article, Anne, and sorry for the super long comment. Maybe I should just write that post instead of cluttering up your com-box! 😉

  12. Dana says:

    It is hard to imagine pay that sort of money for a doll when there are people in our own country (and the entire world) who do not know how they will pay for their next meal. The outfits cost more than the clothes I put on my family.

    And you wonder if it is a good idea to buy these for your girls? If we buy these atrociously expensive gifts for our children – then they will love it because it came from their parents.

    We are called to train our children – and that means discerning the glittery shiny stuff of this world that is so attractive and drains our pocketbooks. Would Christ spend His money on such a doll?

    Sorry for the negative comment when all the others seem to be so positive. I recently read the book Radical and it has totally changed my perspective. Maybe you would want to read it?

  13. Julianne says:

    I am currently 22 and recieved Kirsten for the Christmas of the year I was in 2nd grade (7 years old) – it was a BIG deal then – when the price tag was ONLY $80. My mom and I had read through all the books (of all 5 dolls) then and I got to choose the doll whose story I liked the best. I agree with you that there are both positives and negatives that come with the dolls.

    Negatives: you named some of the biggies in my book – price, branding, the “must haves” – American Girl has gone from a smaller merchandise to overwhelming – I think the stores themselves and the magazines, movies, modern dolls, etc. that go with them. As I’ve gotten older and read the books to younger girls I’ve babysat more I’ve noticed some of the themes you mentioned as well – some disrespect to parents and elders, negative attitudes, and a negative spin on boys/brothers.

    Positives: I have never had a toy a played with more. I think one of the reasons I was able to enjoy my doll so much and expand on my imagination is that the accessories/clothing I had for her was very limited. Most of the clothes I had for her were hand-me-downs, home-made, or bought from craft fairs. Because the clothing/accessories I had didn’t necessarily fit the “Kirsten doll” mode I spent much more time making up stories for my frontier doll. In addition the doll was very well made and one I played with for over 10 years – and still have in my closet for my daughter/nieces one day. Furthermore from a cost perspective, that was really the only doll I had, and the only one I needed. So yes, it was a large financial investment at first – but def worth it over time.

    Historical information – I’m not sure how accurate the stories are, but they def got me, as an early elementary student, into reading about history. Yes, there is there underlying element of “girl power”, but I always liked that the books were never big on pushing young “boyfriend” relationships and typically tended to stress an importance of family.

    Yes, it is alot of money to spend on a toy – but I think if you approach the market with specific limitations and make those clear to your daughter(s) it can be worth the money. While some may disagree, I do believe there are ways to approach the dolls without completely buying into or idolizing the American Girl culture/franchise.

  14. Suanna says:

    I loved to read the stories and peruse the magazines when I was a child. I miss the style of the original catalogs, that allowed me to look and dream about each girl in the respective stories.

    I didn’t have one, we didn’t have the money for one when I was growing up. My Grandma, Aunt, and Grandpa found a porcelain doll that looked similar to Kirsten, my favorite, and replicated her and her accessories. I loved that (I was around 14).

    My girls today love to read the stories and peruse the catalog. We have our generation dolls that they play with and act out the stories as they desire. My one year old does have a Felicity doll as it is her namesake. She will not be allowed to actually play with it until she proves capable of using it and caring for it properly. We gave it to her for her first Christmas, as we found out it was being discontinued, and she didn’t get anything else from us.

    Maybe one day our girls will each have one and maybe not. We will have to see how we feel God want us to use our money when the time comes. They definitely won’t have one before they are at least 8, and we are sure they will care for it carefully.

  15. We have chosen to purchase American Girl dolls for our daughters. For my oldest we have the historical dolls and my younger daughter has the Itty Bitty Twins. I really like the quality of these dolls and was sorry I waited so long to get my oldest any of the dolls. I realized I had wasted money on inferior 18″ dolls. I also like that a majority of the dolls have long hair and there are so many outfits that are a dress to choose from.

    I try to steer my daughters toward AG things instead of Barbies, Polly Pockets, Disney Princess, etc. I really cringe when I walk through the toy department of stores. Most of the toys aren’t something I desire my daughters to play with.

    My daughter has worked hard to save up money to buy some of the outfits. Thankfully, the furniture and other items hasn’t really seemed to intice her. She thinks through every item she wants and when asked what she would like is very thoughtful in her decisions.

    As for the stories, we have read and enjoyed them. We also have learned from them and talked about the negative ideas portrayed in them. Now that she is 11 she doesn’t really spend much time reading them.

    I know it sounds like we spend a lot of money on AG things, but honestly we don’t. We have just chosen to put money for birthday or Christmas presents into AG items instead of the lastest and greatest fad on the market at the time. Yes, AG has a lot of marketing hype, but used right can encourage girls to be little girls and not be embarressed for playing with dolls . It also has taught my daughter how to save money and the wonderful feeling you get when you are finally able to purchase that special item, and then the responsibility in taking care of something that you worked hard for.

    AG does give a lot of food for thought and like you said provides wonderful opportunity for thinking critically.

  16. Kate says:

    My daughter is only 3, but already gets the AG catalog. My sister used to get it, too when she was a child. Many of what is mentioned above I agree with. They bother me, too, but I also realize they are worldly stories and not from a Godly perspective, so I expect a little cringing.

    But, what really bothers me is the consumerism and obvious marketing to spoiled little girls. I mean girl and doll spas!? I don’t mind paying for quality, but with the amount and expense of the stuff and the urgency to get in now through their retirement of dolls program and the “doll of the year” gig puts marketing pressure on parents and children. I can’t blame a business for wanting to make money, but I feel like AG isn’t marketed to average, working class Americans anymore, but to the wealthier classes who can afford doll tea parties, all the accessories, and day spas for dolls.

  17. Brenda says:

    I hadn’t expected to comment on this post (and it’s a wee bit late, as well) but reading all the comments has brought back a rush of memories about my own daughters’ younger years.

    I am happy that we bought them their AG dolls (actually, they had to save half the cost themselves, so I’d know they were serious about wanting one, & that they would value it more). They offered countless hours of wonderful imaginitive play…..both connected with the stories supplied, & stories my girls made up themsleves. Samantha & Molly were their ever present companions, day in, day out.

    In 2004 we tagged along on a trip to New York City with my husband, & I made a point of making lunch reservations at American Girl Place there. I’m not sure I will ever again choose so willingly to eat an overpriced salad, that I knew for sure I could make at home for 1/10th the cost! But that day, it didn’t matter…..not the lunch, nor the marketing of all the goodies that are connected with each doll & her story. My girls, from the time they knew they were going to go on this trip, saved like crazy to be able to buy themselves one thing each for their dollies from the AG store. And I was glad for them. It was something special for just that time, & I don’t regret it. We are rural people, have taken few family vacations in the 20 years that we have been parents, & my children have learned at a very early age not to whine for things. The chance to go to one of the largest, most prominent cities in the world & have American Girl be a part of it was just something that was unforgettable for my girls.

    In our family, we bypassed (thankfully!) the whole Brittney Spears thing, & the Disney princesses, & most other toy fads that were around 7-10 years ago. I understand that AG is owned now by Mattel, instead of that little company in south central Wisconsin….and of course, that means things have a different “feel” now than they used to. I always think that’s a shame. But I hope that the parents whose daughters are just beginning to take a look at the catalogues will still feel the dolls are a good toy to consider buying. Yes, they are pricey. And it’s too bad they’re not made here in the States. Still, they’re not a “trinket-y” kind of toy. In this mom’s opinion, they were worth it. :o)

  18. alissa says:

    I feel similar about the American Dolls. first, they are too expensive. Second, My daughter also loves to read the books, but I don’t let her read them without me. I have noticed that there is some sneakiness and lying in each book, which I don’t want her to come across without me commenting on it. There is also the sibling relationships, which you pointed out. I don’t want her to think that is how she should relate to her own siblings. So I am also torn on my opinion of them.

  19. Lori says:

    Been there – Done that so to speak. My daughter has a few of the dolls. One was Kit who she carried around constantly! And I mean constantly!!! We did make a stop at AG in NYC on a trip there when she was 7 or 8 and that was a great experience! The Tea and the Show were fabulous and she had a tremendous time! She still talks about it.

    I agree that they are terribly high priced, but we went ahead and did it anyway. And yes, I remember many times reading the books with her and using some of them and “teachable moments.” But everything should be.

    I will say that at one point my daughter found out that AG was supporting some causes that were contrary to our family beliefs, and SHE sat down and wrote a letter to them, telling them exactly what she thought of the situation.

    Totally agree – love / hate for sure!

  20. April says:

    I first learned of American Girl Dolls as a teen back in the late 80’s early 90’s- even though I was well past the doll stage I loved looking at the catalog. Because I have always loved history, I enjoyed reading about the dolls, and looking at all of their furniture.

    When my daughter was about 8 or 9 she got her first American Girl Doll, she was really into the girl of the year doll that year, so she got Marisol and all of her trappings. We also have Coconut and Licorice and all of their accessories. I would have loved to buy her more of the historical dolls, but the expense was a bit much. I love the American Girl brand books for young girls, about caring for themselves, and their rooms, and school work etc. as well as the magazine that we used to subscribe to, much better roll model that some of the more mainstream things out there. As for some of the the issues you brought up, I love any opportunity to have a discussion with my children, that is how I deal with the not so pleasant things that we run into- use them as a teachable moment. As far as the cost- I would say, buy less toys but better quality, and in the end you save.

    My daughter is now 16 years old, and Marisol resides in her closet, we both still love to look through the catalog. I love the quality of these dolls, my grandma also makes wonderful clothing for them, which saves on some of the expense. If I am blessed to have grand daughters I am quite sure that both my daughter and I will be buying more American Girl Dolls- and that thought makes me happy!

    Great post, great discussion! ~April

  21. Karen says:

    I love these dolls! I loved them as a child and I bought my ( at Christmas she will be8 month) daughter her first for Christmas. It is expensive yes but, oh well. I think I will be playing with her too.

  22. Lauren says:

    I know what you mean! My parents bought each of us girls one for our 8th birthday (I have Samantha, other sisters had Kirsten and Felicity), then for the next billion years we received bits and pieces for our sets for birthday and Christmas. It worked out ok, and we even saved our own money to purchase items. But yes, looking at the BINS and BINS of stuff I now have, it is EXCESSIVE! I am thankful I have it to pass on to my daughter, hopefully it will become something of an heirloom. But if I have any other daughters, I don’t know that we can/will buy another!

  23. Wow, talk about timely. I also have a love/hate relationship with AG. I never had or heard of these dolls as a child. However working with my clients as a Personal Trainer, before I had my daughter was where I first heard of these pricey little sweethearts. I might add my clients were well out of my demographic financial profile range! However, my 11 year old owns 6 of these. I am grateful that she took them out yesterday. Why? Because compared to the onslaught of other things that seem to be clamoring for her attention at this time , AG offers something that is simpler, sweeter and more innocent. No I am not delusional. ANd I won’t be back to check if you want to argue with me (dropping my opinion and off I go). My dauther added up (from the cataslog, just yesterday)- what it would cost to get all the items she circled from the catalog (she used a calculator). She came up withthe sum of @ 13, 855 dollars. She recognized the preposterousness of this and I was happy to see her brushing the dolls hair (they have been grandparents gifts mostly- we bought her one for her 6th birthday and it is still her fave) and talking about historical times with me. Which time would you want to live in Mom? I was thinking…simpler times, sweetie, simpler times. Nice post…Dawn/Modern Day Disciple @ Beneath The Surface: Breath of Faith.

  24. American Made says:

    An American Girl doll MADE IN CHINA. Oh, the irony. I’d be tempted to buy one if it was still made in Germany then I could justify the cost. So much hoopla over a mass produced doll. Don’t we value the unique and special qualities in the things we buy since as humans we are supposedly unique and special as well?

    Sure, the storytelling is good marketing too. Then our children don’t have to make up their own stories since it’s already done for them.

    It’s unfortunate the Pleasant Company sold out to Mattel who expanded a nice family business into a profit churning machine but this is the way of the world we now live in. If you own something special made by an artisan then you won’t be popular because you don’t have the same thing that everyone else has.

    I know, special and unique is a hard sell these days.

  25. Suzette @ jambalaya says:

    Love this post! I was an avid American Girl fan! Now that you mention it I only remember the fathers being warm and wonderful…boys were given the short end of the stick. Tricky tricky.

  26. Bri says:

    I wanted one so bad, but growing up with a single mom I knew it wasn’t even a question or option. I looked at it as something only rich girls had… Which is a hard distinction to come up with as a child and saddens me about marketing. As I grew older it became clothes that made me feel different.. Not having things like American eagle clothes or tna.

  27. I don’t have a Love/Hate relationship with American Girl Dolls…just a Love/Love one. I’m 72 years old and just adore them and their stories. I never would’ve had one when I was growing up even if they were available because my parents wouldn’t purchase such a pricey toy. So now, I buy them for myself and my granddaughter and we play together. I guess if I were going to say anything negative about AG dolls, it would be the price, but then we wouldn’t have the quality that comes with these dolls. I used to sew for my dolls when I was young. Now, I make expansive wardrobes for my dolls and for a lot of other little girls. I only wish that every girl in America could own one. The stories are fabulous and I appreciate all the research done by the authors. The historical characters make it easier for a child to understand the history. It seems good to see little girls enjoying stories of girls in the past. I think it gives them a connection to their own ancestors. I especially like that the dolls are supposed to represent a ten year-old who is ready to explore the world, and not a teenager with all the angst that goes along with those years. As for the “boys are yucky” thing, most girls that age give that exact description of them ( I raised a few girls). How quickly they change their minds just few years later! I wouldn’t worry about giving a child a wrong impression.

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