American Girl Historical Character dolls

Although the books are written for the eight-to-thirteen-year-old market, they cover child labor, child abuse, poverty, racism, slavery, alcoholism, animal abuse, and war, among other topics. The tone is gentle so as to appeal to a school-aged girl. In the back of books is a “Looking Back” section that discussing the character’s historical setting, tied into the book theme. (For example, the introductory book introduces the time in history, the birthday story talks about childhood and growing up.)

Short stories in small hardback books were published starting in 1999 that gave more insight into the characters, set either during or after the events of the six central books. Some of these were published in American Girl Magazine before being released as small hardcover books. Different “Looking Back” sections pertaining to the story were given (e.g., Addy’s Summer Place talks about Cape Island in 1864; Kit’s Home Run discusses baseball in 1934.) The last group of stories was published in 2003 and the company discontinued the single books in early 2006, before releasing a “Short Story Collection” for each character. Each book has six stories.

The first dolls in the American Girl/Historical line — Samantha, Kirsten, Molly — all shared the same face mold. The dolls were created with white muslin bodies. The cloth bodies weres changed in 1991 in response to the low necklines of Felicity’s period gowns.

Each of the historical characters is given a historical year ending in 4, although their stories cover about two years each. The “Best Friend” line of dolls (companions to the historical dolls) have stories set either during, after or before the events of her companion’s series.

Kaya, 1764

Kaya (pronounced KY-yah) is a Native American girl of the Nez Perce tribe. Kaya’s full name is Kaya’aton’my, or “she who arranges rocks.” Her story takes place in America’s Northwest in the state of Idaho in 1764, before white settlers disturbed the Native American way of life in the west.

Kaya was introduced in 2002 and American Girl reportedly worked with a Nez Perce panel of consultants in creating her stories and collection. The Kaya doll has dark skin; dark brown eyes and braided hair; and a unique face mold not used for any other doll. In fact, Kaya is the only doll that does not smile with her mouth open, as baring one’s teeth is considered offensive to Nez Perce peoples. Her collection and books do not follow the titling pattern established by previous dolls; instead the titles more accurately reflect the cycle of life in tribal society. A glossary is included for the many Nez Perce words and phrases, and many words are spelled phonetically.

Felicity Merriman, 1774

Described as a horse-loving colonial girl living in Williamsburg, Virginia who is caught between Patriot and Loyalist family and friends at the onset of the American Revolution, themes in her core books include loyalty and staying true to one’s ideals.

Many items from Felicity’s collection were retired in the early 2000s. However, following the success of the made-for-TV adaptation of Samantha’s stories, Felicity’s core books were dramatized and Felicity: An American Girl Adventure aired on the WB on November 29, 2005. Many discontinued items from her collection were reintroduced, while other items were redesigned (including Felicity’s ‘Meet dress’ which was changed in 2005 from a rose print to her what was formerly known as her purple flowered ‘Traveling Gown’). The doll’s appearance changed over time. Felicity’s hair was originally a carrot-red and she had soft green eyes, but these features have been changed to a more auburn shade and vivid green eyes.

Elizabeth Cole, 1774

Shy Elizabeth is vivacious Felicity’s best friend, despite her Loyalist family leanings during the American Revolution. The book, “Very Funny, Elizabeth”, written by Valerie Tripp and set in 1775, concerns the engagement of Elizabeth’s snobby older sister, whom Felicity and Elizabeth take every opportunity to tease until a joke goes wrong and Elizabeth finds herself facing a move back to her native England.

The Elizabeth doll was introduced in August 2005 and the character prominently featured in the Felicity DVD. The doll has the Josefina face mold, blue eyes and long blond hair with pincurls. She also features changeable earrings. In the original book illustrations Elizabeth had dark hair and eyes; due to alleged concerns that the young actresses in the movie and their doll counterparts would too closely resemble one another, Elizabeth’s appearance was changed and subsequent editions of the Felicity books were re-illustrated to reflect these changes.

 

Josefina Montoya, 1824

María Josefina (ho-se-FEE-na) Montoya is Mexican, living in what is now the US state of New Mexico when it was still a part of Mexico in Santa Fe. She and her three older sisters must face a new way of life after the death of their beloved mother and the arrival of their Tia (Aunt) Dolores. Josefina’s family speaks Spanish, so there are many Spanish words and phrases in her books, which also include a glossary/pronunciation guide. The focus of her stories is on family, Mexican culture and traditions, and incorporating the past with the present and future in the wake of their mother’s death.

Josefina was the last doll introduced before the Mattel takeover (although Kit and Kaya were in development) and the second of three dolls to have a cultural panel to assist in her creation (the first being Addy and the third being Kaya). The Josefina doll debuted with a brand new face mold, medium skin, dark hair, and brown eyes. Her collection initially included many period-appropriate outfits and household items, but most have since been retired and are now only available on the secondary market and not directly from American Girl.

Kirsten Larson, 1854

Kirsten (Keer-sten or Kur-sten) Larson is a Swedish immigrant who lives in the Minnesota Territory with her extended family. She faces the hardships of adjusting to life as a pioneer in a new and unfamiliar country and the challenge of learning a new language. Kirsten was one of the first three dolls produced by American Girl. Unlike many of the dolls, Kirsten’s books have maintained their original illustrations (with the exception of the covers). The doll has long blonde banged hair that is braided and looped; fair skin; and crystal blue eyes. Like Josefina, Kirsten’s collection initially included many period-appropriate products which are now only available on the secondary market.


Addy Walker, 1864

Addy Walker is a fugitive slave who escaped with her mother from North Carolina to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during the American Civil War after her master split up her family. Addy dreamed of a new life of freedom but realizes that starting over means starting from the bottom and facing on-going prejudice and racism. According to the New York Times Addy was not without controversy as, “In 1993 critics attacked the company for making Addy a slave at the start of her stories, wondering why the company could not have chosen a post-slavery era for its African-American doll.”[5] Addy’s core books were written by Connie Porter and originally illustrated by Melodye Rosales and Bradford Brown, but later redrawn by Dahl Taylor.

Currently the historical line’s only African-American, Addy was the fifth doll to be added to the collection. She was the first non-white doll to be added to the historical line and was the first doll to have earrings. A new mold was created for this doll to give Addy more ethnically appropriate features. The doll has dark skin; dark brown eyes; non-removable earrings; and textured black hair.

A play about Addy was commissioned and produced by the Seattle Children’s Theater in 2007. Entitled Addy: An American Girl Story, the play was taken on limited national tour from January through May 2008 through Kids Entertainmen t, Inc. [2]

Samantha Parkington, 1904

Samantha is an only child growing up during the Edwardian period (although American Girl designated her as Victorian). Orphaned at age five and raised by her wealthy Victorian-era grandmother in fictional Mount Bedford, New York, Samantha befriends a poor servant girl named Nellie O’Malley. Eventually Samantha, Nellie and Nellie’s young sisters are adopted by Samantha’s uncle and aunt. Samantha book themes include women’s suffrage, child labor, and classism. The first two books in the core series were written by Susan S. Adler; the third book by Maxine Rose Schur; the last three by veteran American Girl author Valerie Tripp. The multiple authorship has been criticized for disconnectedness of the characterizations. The Samantha doll has dark brown hair now (the original had lighter brown hair, but it was changed in the early nineties); fair skin; and light brown eyes.

Red Om Productions produced “Samantha, An American Girl Holiday,” in cooperation with American Girl. This made-for-TV movie starred AnnaSophia Robb, then 10, as Samantha and Mia Farrow as Samantha’s grandmother. The show premiered on WB Television Network in November 2004 and was released to DVD soon thereafter.

In an unprecedented move, American Girl sent an email to select customers on October 6, 2008 stating in part that “…Samantha’s complete collection – including Nellie and her accessories – will be moving into the American Girl Archives…” at some point in the near future, at which point only her books and DVD will remain available for purchase. This move was publicly confirmed on the AG website on October 13, 2008. According to the American Girl website, the last available date for purchasing items from Samantha’s collection was May 31, 2009.

Nellie O’Malley, 1904

Born to Irish immigrants, Nellie works for Samantha’s neighbors and is befriended by Samantha. She personifies the working-class immigrant experience of the time and teaches Samantha about the conditions faced by children who work in factories. Nellie and her sisters are orphaned and later adopted by Samantha’s relatives.

In 2004, American Girl broke new ground by introducing Nellie O’Malley as Samantha’s “Best Friend.” She came with a small collection of clothing and sold with a book written by Valerie Tripp. “Nellie’s Promise” is set in 1906 (Samantha’s core books run from 1904-1905). Despite challenges, Nellie is determined to honor the promise she made to her mother while keeping peace in her new family and holding true to her ideals. The Nellie doll was given the Josefina facemold, short strawberry-blonde hair, deep blue eyes, and freckles.

American Girl announced on October 6, 2008 that Nellie and her collection would be moved into the “American Girl Archive” with Samantha and her collection, thus becoming unavailable for purchase through American Girl. The last date to purchase items from Samantha’s collection was May 31, 2009, but in fact the Nellie doll sold out in mid-December 2008 according to the American Girl website.

Rebecca Rubin, 1914

Rebecca Rubin is American Girl’s tenth historical character. She is a 9-year-old Russian-Jewish girl whose maternal grandparents and parents immigrated to the Lower East Side of New York City. Rebecca is fascinated by the budding film industry and aspires to become an actress, but her family of Russian immigrants disapprove of acting and movies.. Her six core books, written by Jacqueline Dembar Greene, focus on issues related to assimilation and accommodation to mainstream American culture while incorporating familial, religious, and cultural traditions and beliefs. Rebecca is the third historical character whose books break from the original titling pattern (following precedent set by Kaya and Julie). Rebecca Rubin is the 10th AG doll.

The Rebecca doll features the Josefina face mold, curly honey-brown hair, and hazel eyes.

Kit Kittredge, 1934

Kit Kittredge faces the hard times of the early years of the Great Depression in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her family struggles to adjust to the realities of the economy after Kit’s father loses his job. Kit’s full name is Margaret Mildred Kittredge, with Kit as a family nickname. Kit’s core series of books was written by Valerie Tripp and illustrated by Walter Rane. The Kit doll debuted in 2000 and was the first doll to have freckles, and a short hairstyle.

A feature film Kit Kittredge: An American Girl was released to theaters on July 2, 2008, starring Abigail Breslin, then 12, as Kit. Many n ew items were added to Kit’s collection as product tie-ins to the movie. Kit is the second doll to have her own Nintendo DS game, “Kit Mystery Challenge”. Kit also has a PC video game called “A Tree House of My Own”.

Ruthie Smithens, 1934

Ruthie is Kit’s best friend. Her family is well-off compared to the financial struggles of Kit’s family. The character of Ruthie adores fairy tales, idolizes movie stars, is generous and often tries to help Kit but sometimes wounds her friend’s pride instead. Her accompanying book, “Really Truly Ruthie” by author Valerie Tripp, is set in late December 1932 and showcases how Ruthie helps the Kittredge family save their home from foreclosure.

Ruthie is the 5th doll in the Best Friends collection and was released July 1, 2008 with a small collection in anticipation of the Kit movie. The Ruthie doll has an original facemold, dark brown curly hair and light gray eyes.

Molly McIntire, 1944

Molly’s story is set during World War II. Molly lives in Jefferson, Illinois with her parents and three siblings, where she helps her family and loved ones stay cheery during the war. Her physician father is stationed in England caring for wounded soldiers. Molly’s report card reveals her middle initial to be “J.” Throughout her core stories, Molly has two equal best friends but gains a third friend named Emily Bennett in her birthday story. Molly’s six core books focus on themes of teamwork, family adaptation to her father being gone during the war, and setting and maintaining priorities.

Molly was one of the original three dolls offered by Pleasant Company. She has medium brown, braided hair; gray eyes; and wears distinctive round glasses. While the company sells eyeglasses separately to fit any 18″ American Girl doll, Molly is the only doll to be sold with them. Molly has a large collection based on fashions from the World War II era.

Molly: An American Girl on the Home Front was the third TV movie based on the historical characters and the only one to air on the Disney Channel on November 26, 2006. The movie stars Maya Ritter, then 13, as Molly, and Molly Ringwald as Mom. The movie deviates from the books in many ways, including the omission of the youngest brother, Brad, from the family.

Emily Bennett, 1944

Emily Bennett is an English girl who was unexpectedly sent to America to temporarily stay with the McIntires for two weeks in the story “Happy Birthday, Molly!”. At first Molly thinks of Emily as snobby and prim, but their bond strengthens when they discover a shared fascination for the English princesses and other girlish pursuits.

Emily is the third doll in the “Best Friends” collection. She was released September 5, 2006 in anticipation of the Molly made-for-TV movie. Since technically Emily is not Molly’s “best friend,” she was marketed instead as “Molly’s English friend.” The Emily doll has light, red hair and light blue eyes. Her accompanying book, “Brave Emily,” by author Valerie Tripp is set in 1944. Its “Looking Back” section discusses children during WWII who were sent outside of Europe for safety.

Julie Albright, 1974

Julie Albright is a ten year-old girl growing up in San Francisco, California during the period of September 1975-76. Her six main books were written by Megan McDonald and illustrated by Robert Hunter and Susan MacAliley. Her series is the second to break from the traditional titling pattern (Kaya was the first, as noted above). She is the first historical character to have divorced parents. Following the divorce, Julie moves with her mother and older sister to a different part of the city, leaving behind her pet bunny and best friend Ivy. She visits her father on the weekends. Julie’s books focus on gender equality in school sports, America’s Bicentennial celebration, preserving endangered species (such as the bald eagle), and running for class president. Her stories also touch on the Disability rights movement, feminism, the Vietnam War, Earth Day and Watergate and deal with general issues of responsibility and adapting to change. Many references to the events and zeitgeist of the mid-1970s are included.

The Julie doll was released September 10, 2007. The doll has long, very straight, blonde hair with a small side braid; brown eyes; and the Josefina face mold. Her “Meet Outfit” is the first that does not include a dress or skirt.

Julie is the second doll to have her own computer game, entitled Julie Saves the Eag les. (Previous computer software such as The American Girl Premiere 1st and 2nd Edition and American Girl Dolls were themed around multiple dolls). Julie is also the first American Girl character to have her own Nintendo DS game, Julie Finds a Way.

Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas is reportedly outlining a movie proposal entitled “Julie: An American Girl Musical.” If this movie makes it to the production stages, open casting calls are planned.

Ivy Ling, 1974

Ivy Ling is a Chinese American girl who also lives in San Francisco. Her solo book is entitled “Good Luck, Ivy” by children’s author Lisa Yee. The book is set in May/June 1976 and focuses on Ivy’s conflict with gymnastic competition obligations and her family traditions and responsibilities. The “Looking Back” section in her book is about Chinese-American history.

The Ivy doll debuted with Julie, thus being the first “Best Friend” doll to be released with the main character. Ivy is also the first Asian doll in the historical collection. Ivy has Jess’ face mold, straight black shoulder-length hair with bangs, brown eyes, and removable earrings. She has a very limited collection to date, including only one extra outfit.

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