American Girl

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This article is about the brand of dolls. For other uses, see American Girl (disambiguation).
American Girl
American Girl Logo.svg
Type Doll
Inventor Pleasant Rowland
Company Pleasant Company, Mattel
Country United States
Availability 1986–present
Official website

American Girl is an American line of 18-inch (46 cm) dolls released in 1986 by Pleasant Company. The dolls portray eight- to eleven-year-old girls of a variety of ethnicities. They are sold with accompanying books told from the viewpoint of the girls. Originally the stories focused on various periods of American history, but were expanded in 1995 to include characters and stories from contemporary life. A variety of related clothing and accessories is also available.

Pleasant Company was founded in 1986 by Pleasant Rowland, and its products were originally purchasable by mail order only. In 1998, Pleasant Company became a subsidiary of Mattel. The company has been awarded the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Award eight times.[1]

Dolls and accessories[edit]

Molly McIntire, one of the American Girl dolls

The Historical Characters line of 18-inch dolls were initially the main focus of Pleasant Company. This product line aims to teach aspects of American history through a six-book series from the perspective of a girl living in that time period. Although the books are written for an eight plus target audience, they endeavor to cover significant topics such as child labor, child abuse, poverty, racism, slavery, animal abuse and war in manners appropriate for the understanding and sensibilities of their young audience.[2]

In 1995 Pleasant Company released a line of contemporary dolls called American Girl of Today. In 2006 the product line was renamed Just Like You; it was changed again in 2010, to My American Girl, and in 2015 to Truly Me.[3] This line has included over sixty-one different dolls over the years. Each doll has a different combination of face mold, skin tone, eye color, and hair color, length, texture, and/or style. American Girl states that this variety allows customers to choose dolls that "represent the individuality and diversity of today's American girls."[2] A wide variety of contemporary clothing, accessories, and furniture is also available, and there are regular releases and retirements to update this line. Each year, a Girl of the Year doll is released who has her own special talent. For example, Mia St. Clair, the Girl of the Year for 2008, did ice skating, and Marisol Luna, the Girl of the Year for 2005, was a dancer.

Bitty Baby is a line of baby dolls targeted to children aged three and older. They are half the price of full size American Girl dolls. The Bitty Twins line debuted in 2003 to represent slightly older toddlers and/or preschoolers. The Bitty Twins are the same size as the Bitty Baby dolls.[2]

A reboot of the Historical Characters line dubbed as BeForever was launched in August 2014, complete with redesigned outfits, a two-volume compilation of previously-released books, and a "Journey Book" for each character, with players taking the role of a present-day girl who found her way to the past and met up with one of the Historical girls. The line also coincided with the relaunch of Samantha Parkington, whose collection was previously discontinued in 2008.[4][5]



Main article: American Girl films

In 2004, American Girl teamed with Julia Roberts's Red Om production company and to create the first American Girl direct-to-video movie, Samantha: An American Girl Holiday. The film spawned a franchise that was followed by Felicity: An American Girl Adventure (2005), Molly: An American Girl on the Home Front (2006), along with the 2008 theatrically released film Kit Kittredge: An American Girl. In 2009, HBO premiered An American Girl: Chrissa Stands Strong. In July 2012 American Girl released a direct-to-video movie, McKenna Shoots for the Stars. A seventh movie based on Saige Copeland's stories entitled Saige Paints the Sky was released in July 2013, and a television film entitled Isabelle Dances Into the Spotlight, based on Girl of the Year 2014 Isabelle Palmer, was released in 2014. A ninth film based on 2015 Girl of the Year Grace Thomas was released under the title An American Girl: Grace Stirs Up Success, with Olivia Rodrigo playing the title role.[6][7]


American Girl Place is a store that sells American Girl dolls, clothes, and accessories. The flagship and first store debuted in Chicago followed by stores in New York City and Los Angeles. A number of boutiques followed which are smaller than the main stores; they feature rotating stock and some have casual restaurants. There are smaller stores in North Point Mall in Atlanta; Galleria Dallas Mall in Dallas; Natick Mall in Natick, Massachusetts; the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota; Park Meadows mall near Denver, Colorado; Oak Park Mall near Kansas City, Kansas);[8] Tysons Corner Center in Tysons Corner, Virginia;[9] Alderwood Mall, located near Seattle, Washington; Chesterfield Mall near St. Louis, Missouri; Memorial City Mall in Houston, Texas; The Falls mall near Miami, Florida;[10] Easton Town Center in Columbus, Ohio; Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto, California; SouthPark Mall in Charlotte, North Carolina; and The Florida Mall in Orlando, Florida.

In May 2014, Mattel American Girl opened new stores in Toronto and Vancouver, Canada[11] in partnership with Indigo Books and Music.[12][13][14] The company has also expressed interest in other overseas ventures, as they are seeing orders from Europe and Latin America.[15] The company has also announced that they're expanding their operations in Mexico, with two stores at El Palacio de Hierro’s Perisur and Interlomas in Mexico City, and a third in Polanco in 2015.[16][17]


The American Girl magazine is run by the American Girl company. It was started by the Pleasant Company in Middleton, Wisconsin in 1992,[18] with the first issue dated January 1993. Aimed towards girls ages 8+, the bimonthly magazine includes articles, recipes, advice columns, fiction, arts and crafts, and activity ideas. Girls can choose to either get a year of magazines(6 issues), or two years of magazines(12 issues).

Online marketing and philanthropy[edit]

American Girl launched Innerstar University, an online virtual world featuring the My American Girl contemporary doll line, on July 13, 2010. Access to the online world is via a Campus Guide, bundled with purchase of a My American Girl doll, which contains an access code for the creation of a doll avatar that then navigates the various games, shops, and challenges of the virtual campus of Innerstar U.[19] The launch was simultaneous with Shine on Now, a fund-raising effort Kids In Distressed Situations, National Association of Children's Hospitals and Related Institutions, National Wildlife Federation, and Save the Children charities.[20] The company has also donated "almost $500,000" over several years to national non-profit homeless housing group HomeAid.[21] These contributions are mainly through its Project Playhouse program.[22]


The company has drawn criticism for the expense of the dolls, which cost $115 without accessories as of December 2014.[23] Buyers can easily spend more than $600 for a doll, outfits, accessories and lunch in the company's store in New York.[24] Some aspects of the doll's characters and history have also provoked controversy. Some observers questioned why Addy, American Girl's first African-American historical character, was portrayed first as a slave (in later stories Addy and her family gain their freedom after the Civil War), while Cecile Rey, American Girl's second black historical character, was portrayed as a well-to-do black girl.[25] In 2005, residents of Pilsen (a neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois) criticized a passage in the book associated with the Latina-American doll Marisol, claiming it inaccurately depicted their neighborhood as dangerous. A senior public relations associate for American Girl responded to critics saying: “We feel that this brief passage has been taken out of context in the book."[26] The 2009 limited-edition release of Gwen, a homeless American Girl character, was also controversial.[27][28]

In 2005, some pro-life and Catholic groups criticized the company for donating funds to the organization Girls, Inc., which supports underprivileged girls and promotes abortion rights and acceptance of homosexuality.[29][30]

The American Girl Place store in New York City was the center of a labor dispute with Actors' Equity Association (AEA). On August 3, 2006, 14 of the 18 adult actors at the store's now defunct theater went on strike.[31] AEA reached a two-year contract effective April 1, 2008. All American Girl Place theatres were subsequently closed in September of that year.[32]

In May 2014, the company was met with criticism on social media[33] over its decision to discontinue four characters from the historical collection, two of them, namely African-American Cécile Rey and Chinese-American Ivy Ling, representing ethnic minorities. They, however, defended their move as a business strategy, as they decided to "move away from the character-friend strategy within the line".[34] A petition has since been filed through the activist group for the company to provide a replacement for Ivy.[35] The company has also drawn criticism for its recent focus on the contemporary line, specifically the Girl of the Year characters and their backstory, to which was maligned for lacking depth and more important issues in comparison to the Historical/BeForever characters' backstories.[36] My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic series creator Lauren Faust also expressed her concern and criticism of the line in a Twitter post, stating it "was once radically positive for girls before it was homogenized for money".[37]

In 2015 the American Girl fan community, more specifically the practice of creating and uploading doll-based stop motion videos, was featured in a news report for BBC News' Trending site, along with interviews and videos from several prominent doll community members, namely AGSmiless, Basilmentos and Starryeyeschick. Besides stop-motion animations and music videos set to popular music, the report covers recurring subject matters in the said clips such as cyberbullying and other social issues, along with doll customization, photoshoots and unboxing videos showing new and discontinued clothes, accessories and dolls from the company.[38][39]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Oppenheimer Toy Award". Archived from the original on 2006-04-21. Retrieved 2006-05-04. 
  2. ^ a b c "Company History". American Girl. Retrieved 2012-11-30. 
  3. ^ "American Girl Unveils Truly Me™ Doll Line and Helps Girls Explore and Discover Who They Truly Are". Business Wire. Retrieved 22 May 2015. 
  4. ^ Mac Kay, Allie; Cruz, Nancy (27 August 2014). "American Girl ‘BeForever’ Collection". KTLA. Retrieved 29 August 2014. 
  5. ^ Fisher, Daniela (28 August 2014). "Mattel intros new American Girls line". Kidscreen. Retrieved 29 August 2014. 
  6. ^ "An American Girl: Grace Stirs Up Success Blu-ray". Retrieved 9 May 2015. 
  7. ^ Cohen, Steven (4 March 2015). "'An American Girl: Grace Stirs Up Success' Blu-ray Announced for June". High-Def Digest. Retrieved 9 May 2015. 
  8. ^ City, Kansas (May 17, 2010). "American Girl comes to Kansas City area's Oak Park Mall". 
  9. ^ Mui, Ylan Q. (August 18, 2010). "American Girl doll store coming to Tysons Corner Center". The Washington Post. 
  10. ^ "American Girl Stores". American Girl. 
  11. ^ Strauss, Marina (29 October 2013). "American Girl dolls coming to Canada’s Indigo stores". The Globe and Mail (Toronto). Retrieved 30 October 2013. 
  12. ^ "Step aside, Barbie. American Girl dolls coming to Canada". Toronto Star. October 29, 2013. Retrieved 30 October 2013. 
  13. ^ "American Girl debuts in Canada with boutiques in two Indigo stores". Financial Post. Retrieved 30 October 2013. 
  14. ^ Rhee, Minna (May 2, 2014). "American Girl dolls arrive in Canada at stores in Toronto, Vancouver". Global News. Retrieved September 10, 2015. 
  15. ^ "Mattel sends American Girl abroad - Behind the Storefront". MarketWatch. Retrieved 30 October 2013. 
  16. ^ Schuyler, David. "American Girl expanding into Mexico - Milwaukee - Milwaukee Business Journal". American City Business Journals. Retrieved 31 October 2014. 
  17. ^ "American Girl® Expands into Mexico - MarketWatch". MarketWatch. 30 October 2014. Retrieved 31 October 2014. 
  18. ^ O'Rourke, James S. (2007). The Business Communication Casebook: A Notre Dame Collection (2nd ed.). Cengage Learning. p. 3. ISBN 0-324-54509-6. 
  19. ^ Karakus, Nesli (June 30, 2010). "American Girl launches online charity donation campaign". Internet Retailer. Retrieved 2012-11-30. 
  20. ^ Newman, Judy (June 29, 2010). "American Girl invites girls to give, customize dolls — and return to the company's website". Wisconsin State Journal. Retrieved 2012-11-30. 
  21. ^ "American Girl's "Homeless" Doll Sparks Outrage". KTLA News. October 5, 2009. 
  22. ^ "Donor Highlight". HomeAid. Retrieved 2012-11-30. 
  23. ^ Thompson, Caroline (3 December 2014). "How to save on American Girl, LEGO, and more of Google's top 10 'most searched' toys". Christian Science Monitor. 
  24. ^ Fierro, Christina (9 October 2010). "How much does an American Girl doll really cost?". WalletPop. 
  25. ^ Salkin, Allen (May 22, 2009). "American Girl's Journey to the Lower East Side". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-11-30. 
  26. ^ "Marisol in the Middle: ‘American’ Doll Upsets Latino Neighbors". Retrieved 2005-04-23. 
  27. ^ Peyser, Andrea (September 24, 2009). "'Homeless' doll costs $95 (hairstyling extra)". New York Post. 
  28. ^ "Flap Over "Homeless" American Girl Doll". CBS News. September 26, 2009. 
  29. ^ "THE AMERICAN GIRL PROMISE". Store. Retrieved 2006-12-26. 
  30. ^ Alfano, Sean (December 21, 2005). "Dolls Draw Conservatives' Ire". CBS News. Retrieved June 25, 2010. 
  31. ^ Robertson, Campbell (August 4, 2006). "Actors at American Girl Place Store Go on Strike". Archived from the original on 6 August 2006. Retrieved 2006-08-04. 
  32. ^ "American Girl Place Theatre". Actors' Equity. April 10, 2008. Retrieved 2012-11-30. 
  33. ^ Elliot, Annabel Fenwick (27 May 2014). "American Girl defends decision to discontinue two racially diverse dolls following complaints". Mail Online. Retrieved 29 May 2014. 
  34. ^ Kindelan, Katie (28 May 2014). "American Girl Rebuts Critics After Dropping Minority Dolls - ABC News". Retrieved 29 May 2014. 
  35. ^ Clehane, Diane (8 July 2014). "Why Is American Girl Rebranding Their Historical Line Without An Asian Doll?". Forbes. Retrieved 8 July 2014. 
  36. ^ Mccall, Stephanie (17 June 2015). "The Evolution of the American Girl Collection and How We Should Respond". Business 2 Community. Retrieved 18 June 2015. 
  37. ^ Faust, Lauren (13 May 2013). ""Even "American Girls" was once radically positive for girls before it was homogenized for money."". Twitter. Retrieved 18 June 2015. 
  38. ^ Thomchak, Anne-Marie (25 March 2015). "AGSM - The secret world of animated doll videos on YouTube - BBC Trending". BBC News. YouTube. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  39. ^ Perry, Douglas (12 May 2015). "It's alive! Alive! Why stop-motion American Girl doll movies are sweeping the Internet". Retrieved 16 May 2015. 

External links[edit]