American Girl Doll Challenging Feminist Mothers

by Karin on January 23, 2013 · 2 comments

Does the name Kirsten Larson sound familiar?

Her bio reads:

Kirsten Larson and her family arrive in America in 1854, after a long sea voyage. Everything looks so different from the life Kirsten knew back in Sweden—the ways people talk and dress seem strange! Getting lost in a big city and parting with her best friend only add to Kirsten’s worry. Will she ever feel at home here? It is only when the Larsons arrive at a tiny farm on the edge of the frontier that Kirsten believes Papa’s promise—America will be a land filled with opportunity for them all.

Many girls who use the Ottendorfer branch of the New York Public Library have had the chance to get to know this American Girl Doll and her stories thanks to a librarian who started lending her out to attract more children to the library.  For some girls, this was their only opportunity to play with an American Girl Doll because of “financial or feminist reasons.”  Here is one recently reported story:

For others, it was the only way their liberal-minded parents would allow any doll into their home, refusing to indulge in gender stereotypes or what they considered to be an elitist hobby.

Suzette Seepersad had been avoiding buying her daughter Caelyn Osborn, 5, any toys geared toward girls.

But Caelyn fell in love with Kirsten, taking her to the family’s apartment, bathing her, reading stories to her and putting her to bed. After keeping the doll for two weeks or so, she had to be reminded by a librarian to return it. Now, Ms. Seepersad said, “I’m trying to get my sister to buy her” an American Girl doll.

It sounds like Kirsten is not only teaching girls but also their mothers some lessons.

This reminded me of an article Christina Hoff Sommers published in December about gender-neutral toys, You Can Give a Boy a Doll, but You Can’t Make Him Play With It.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

fran froelich January 24, 2013 at 7:31 am

I like the idea of American Girl dolls to introduce little girls to history. It makes it come alive for more of them & can be a keepsake to be handed down. But the dolls themselves are hugely expensive, the clothes even more so. Low to moderate income parents can’t afford them.
Here’s a suggestion: is it possible for American Girl to team up w/sewing pattern companies to offer patterns for the clothes? I mean, the dolls themselves are standard 18-inch size, & there are already patterns for this size? As an avid seamstress & wanna-be grandmother, I’d love to be able to make doll clothes for future granddaughters out of scrap materials. Beside that, it would teach little girls how to sew, which is another benefit.

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ERussell January 25, 2013 at 1:32 pm

Many companies offer patterns for 18″ dolls that match the historical themes of the American Girl dolls. Michaels also has the 18″ accessories that can be substituted at lower costs. Some items can be made without a pattern. I made a Laura Ingalls Wilder dress for my daughter and created one for her doll without a pattern. Same with a Kimono and some colonial accessories. Also a big business on Ebay for dresses, and some custom girl/doll matching outfits.

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