In 1986 Pleasant Rowland, an American writer, reporter, educator and philanthropist founded Pleasant Company and launched a line of dolls that would change the way girls relate to them. The new line was called American Girl and it was a new proposition in the world of dolls.
Rowland wanted to offer girls 8 to 12 years old a doll that was not a baby to care for or a fashion icon, like Barbie. Rowland wanted to offer girls in that age group a doll that would capture their imagination and enabled them to think and learn about life and history. The American Girl doll was conceived to have a unique identity within a specific historical period. To this end, each doll had a name and came with a book that covered her story and the period in history when she lived.
The purpose of this historical placement of the dolls was to give girls a more personal perspective of American history and the different issues that have affected society at different points. Although the target audience is very young and the books are definitely written and developed with that in mind, the subject matters covered ranged from child labor to poverty, slavery or war.
The first American Girl dolls to see the light were Kirsten Larson, Samantha Parkington and Molly McIntire. Today there are more than 30 American Girl dolls, each one with a unique story to tell.
Rowland sold the Pleasant Company to Mattel in 1998 but continued working for American Girl until she retired in 2000. Today, the American Girl line has movies, flagship stores, clothing and accessories for girls and a variety of books about the dolls and also issues concerning the target demographic, 8 to 12 year old girls.
American Girl dolls are 18 inches tall and can be part of a historical period or custom made to fit the buyer’s specifications.
The historical characters expand over different significant periods of American history and each dolls comes with six different books that tell their story and explore the particular historical period they each lived. The dolls also have accessories, clothes and furniture typical of the era when they lived.
Some of the current characters available on the company’s site are: Kaya, a Nez Perce girl growing up in 1764; Addy Walker, an African American girl escaping slavery in 1864, during the American Civil War; Kit Kittredge and her best friend Ruthie, two girls growing up during the period of the Great Depression in 1934.
American Girl dolls can also be customized. Girls can order a doll that closely resembles them by picking from a long list of options of hair, eye and skin colors, as well as hair texture (wavy, curly or straight) and lengths. These dolls include a collectible charm-keeper necklace and a code to access online interactive play. A variety of accessories are available for each doll, including jewelry, clothing, pets, furniture and health care aids, such as hearing aids.
There are so many things we love about American Girl; the rich historical characters brought to life by the dolls and the books, the wonderful period inspired accessories and clothes the fact that the dolls can be customized to resemble the owner.
We appreciate toys that have both an entertainment and an educational purpose built into them. We also value the philanthropic work that companies do to improve the world around them. American Girl supports an extensive list of causes addressing issues such as natural disasters, illnesses, poverty, literacy and many others.
Some of the charities supported by American Girl include the Children’s Hospital Association, which promotes the well-being and health of children and their families in America. The company has also donated close to $1billion in toys, books and new clothes to K.I.D.S (Kids in Distressed Situations), an organization that works with local service agencies in the United States and around the world to distribute new items to kids that are homeless, sick or poor. American Girl also supports United Way, Special Olympics, Save the Children and the Madison Children’s Museum, to name a few of the organizations that have benefited from the company’s philanthropic efforts.