5 Reasons American Girl Dolls are Awesome and 1 Reason they Aren’t

By: Keith

Mothers and daughters love American Girl Dolls.  I know they do because I’ve heard rave reviews about them from parents and heard confirmation of it from little girls.  I wrote a critical post about a year ago about a particular American Doll character that had what was, in my opinion, a terribly sexist back story.  I still think that doll was ill conceived and does a huge disservice to little girls who love their dads.  I mean, what kid would buy a doll whose back story is that her father is a scumbag and her mother is a helpless victim of his misogyny?  I still contend the only way that doll would get purchased is by an angry mother who wants to passively stick it to her ex-man, not by the free will of a little girl.  Okay, that example aside – what about the rest of the American Girl line?  To be honest, I dismissed the entire line of dolls after writing that first article last year.  I didn’t care about them and I thought, based on the above example, that they were stupid, PC, anti-male, indoctrination products.        


I was surprised that I got one of their catalogs in the mail yesterday (I don’t have a daughter and I’ve never bought anything doll related).  It’s called American Girl: Follow Your Inner Star.  It’s 63 pages of nothing but American Girl dolls and accessories.  I said “Huh?  Why am I getting this magazine?”  Then, because I thought I might find something else to rant about if I looked hard enough, I went through the whole thing and read all the little doll biographies and examined the outfits and the make-it-yourself section.  I said to Mely “I’m shocked!” and she said “What are you shocked about?” and I said “These dolls are really cool!” and she said “Yeah, that is shocking.”  I couldn’t find anything to kvetch about!  These dolls really are as cool as little girls and their mothers say.       


5 Reasons Why They’re So Great:        


1. Not Barbie:  Has anybody seen Barbie these days?  She hasn’t gotten any less trampy or unrealistic.        


2. Cool Outfits:  American Girl Dolls can be dressed in a variety of period specific outfits which appear to have a degree of realism and historical accuracy.       


3. Books and Storylines:  Each Doll has a series of books devoted to her real life counterpart (girls are the protagonists of each story, not dolls) and her personal life journey.  For instance, Rebecca Rubin lives with her parents in an apartment in 1914 New York City.  She dreams of being an actress and her favorite family tradition is observing the Sabbath. I haven’t read any of the books, but what I’m told that she discovers through the series that “it’s possible to blend old and new traditions without giving up your dreams.”  The Doll, Rebecca Rubin, is a manifestation of the character in the book.          


4. Customizable:  Girls don’t have to buy a preloaded doll.  They can pick from at least 20 stock models (that’s how many I see in the catalog, but they say there are even more on the website americangirl.com/choosedolls).  After your daughter picks the doll with the hair color, style and eyes she wants, she can then proceed to festoon it with whatever outfits, jewelry and background accessories she likes, thereby creating a doll with a unique history of its own and perhaps the beginnings of a whole new story.        


5. High Quality:  For manufactured dolls, I’ve been told the American Girl Dolls can’t be beat. Again, I’ve never held one myself so I can’t vouch for that, but moms say they actually are worth the 95 dollar price tag.  And, considering that I’ve recently heard that 100% custom, handmade dolls can go for over 1000 bucks, $95 seems perfectly reasonable.  The dolls are quality, the accessories are quality, the clothes are quality, and so are the books that tell the stories of each American Girl.        


My 1 Complaint:       


1. Too Politically Correct:  Felicity Merriman, for example, lives in 1774 New England.  Her father is a patriot and so is she, but her best friend is a loyalist.  The lesson she supposedly learns in the books is that “People can have different beliefs and still be friends.”  Um, sorry little girl, but your friend’s dad and your dad are at war.  What are you going to do when the war shows up and you’re out singing hippie songs with your little friend?  You might want to wake up before a cannon ball drops through your tea party.  Just saying.  Felicity is just one example of several plausible but highly unlikely scenarios where an American Girl suddenly learns about Kwanza or some other such nonsense.  I had to have at least one complaint, right?        


My Favorite Doll:        


Josefina Montoya:  She’s the youngest of 4 girls growing up on a “rancho” in 1824 New Mexico.  Apart from the fact that New Mexico was still Mexico in 1824 and only 3 years removed from being Spanish, the doll itself is pretty awesome.  She dresses just like a little Spanish girl would have dressed (Historically speaking they never considered themselves Mexican, they thought of themselves as Spanish even after becoming Mexican, briefly Texan, and later American – history lesson free of charge).  She comes complete with a pretty little shawl, a flower for her hair and cool looking moccasins.  She discovers in her books that “You can open your heart to change and still hold on to treasured traditions.”  That description leads me to believe the books got the history right.  Yay!   


11 Responses to “5 Reasons American Girl Dolls are Awesome and 1 Reason they Aren’t”
  1. Angie September 12, 2010 at 2:36 pm #

    I agree with you 100%. But as far as American girl role models, we have made a few strides since I was a kid. :)

  2. Lesa September 12, 2010 at 5:26 pm #

    Ironically the doll you have an issue with is being retired so Felicity won’t be an issue for much longer. I love Colonial Williamsburg and Felicity used to actually have programs that included her. She was a great teaching tool to get young girls into the history of the town. Sadly, Mattel and CW parted ways, but they do happen to sell dresses, bonnets, etc that just happen to fit the American Girl dolls. I think it will be really sad that this doll is being retired. My mother in law is actually going to buy my 2 month old daughter this doll for Christmas simply because we won’t be able to wait until she is older.

  3. Tonya September 13, 2010 at 6:54 am #

    My daughter is 10 years old and loves American Girl dolls and the books that go along with them. As girls get older, they can transition into the American Girl magazine and books with subjects such as dealing with bullies and having a healthy body. Despite the price tag, the message is a good one. So much better than Barbie or Hannah Montana!

  4. Harriet September 13, 2010 at 10:05 am #

    They sound like a great idea! I love that the doll comes with a book, it seems like they teach girls good morals anyway

  5. evohomeschool September 13, 2010 at 12:44 pm #

    Compared to the other choices of dolls for little girls the American Girl is a better roll model. I’ve read some of the books when I worked with second graders. Are they completely historically correct? No. But neither are the actual history books being used in schools, so they need to be taken with a grain of salt, so to speak.
    But like you I also received a catalog and my dd is 25! And hasn’t lived at home since she was 18 so I was baffled as to why it was sent. My copy got recycled. Good piece on the pc mention.

    • Keith September 13, 2010 at 7:54 pm #

      Evo: You’re definitely right. Of all the little dolls girls could play with, these are soooo much better. And you’re also right that I guess actual history books aren’t exactly pillars of accuracy themselves :-) Did everybody get this silly catalog? How funny. I think the company wasted some serious bucks on sending it to every household in America.

  6. Leigh September 15, 2010 at 9:37 am #

    My daughter has never played with dolls, but when the other girls in our neighborhood started with American Girl Dolls, she decided she HAD to have one. Groan! So expensive! After a bit of research, however, we decided it was totally worth it. There really ARE no other dolls out there that teach good life lessons. Kathleen, age 7, was required to do chores to save up 1/2 of the cost of her doll.

    Now we’ve even started our own project making beds for her doll & the dolls in our neighborhood.

    Check us out at:

    And yes, that’s my cutie-pie on the home page!

  7. TacomaRogue October 14, 2010 at 1:43 pm #

    I LOVE my american girl doll. I got Felicity (my favorite other than Molly and the now retired Samantha) when I was 9 and before that my friends and I would play with the paper dolls four HOURS! Now at 25 I still have Felicity and she’s still in great condition after a whole lot of play (I played with dolls until I was 15, I grew up in a town with not much else to do). I would say the $95 price tag is more than reasonable (though back when I got mine it was only $75, but when you’re saving your own allowence money that’s a whole lot).

  8. sell crafts October 28, 2010 at 3:35 am #

    wonderful post keep posting thanks for the good post

  9. Emma Elizabeth January 23, 2011 at 6:18 pm #

    Very nice!!!!!! I was wondering about the picture at the top, are those all if your dolls? Because there are a few left out if it isn’t. Do you like Rebecca alot?

  10. Vanessa Lee March 18, 2013 at 5:17 pm #

    Ran across your blog in 2013.
    AG dolls were a part of my now 22 year old daughter’s childhood.

    First, we got the black haired olive skinned version of “Bitty Baby”…because we were soon to adopt a child that probably would NOT resemble our blonde, blue eyed little girl. Due possibly to his darker coloring, he “won” a role as Baby Jesus in a church Christmas pageant.

    Then, a few American Girl Dolls…one a year for 3 years. Daughter had to agree that the doll (around $90 then for doll & one book) would be essentially her only christmas present, tho I sewed many clothes for them as smaller add-ons. I loved sewing for her…because her body is essentially a rounded rectangle…We bought some of the book sets, but never bought any other AG accessory, tho we loved the visit to the very grand AG store in Chicago. Yes, they had lots of spenders there. Probably needa twice a day Brinks truck to haul the $$ away!

    But hey…it’s great to fuss over girls. With AG, they get a “real life” doll…and it’s a good transition into the teen years.

    My parents…and an aunt & uncle made doll bed/wardrobe/chairs & table. All of which we still have…awaiting (hopefully) an eager granddaughter someday.

    Note…People now have alternatives …notably the Springfield dolls available at some Joann Fabrics or Hobby Lobby. Some use the Springfields or various big box store 18″ dolls as a kind of “First Big Doll”. If the girl has no real interest in the big girl doll, only about $20 (for the lower quality but cheapest Springfield doll which couldbe bought for about $10 with a 50^% off store coupon) need be invested.

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