“When you choose an American Girl doll, you’ll discover a new world of imagination. That’s because each character stars in unique stories of courage, loyalty, compassion, and leadership. Learn how the challenges and joys of growing up in another era still relate to girls in 2010. Explore books and products developed to encourage play and creativity. And, find inspiration in the stories that celebrate girls and all that they can be.” 
When I arrived home this week I noticed several American Girl doll catalogs laying around and decided to peruse the bright, cheery images of the latest in doll fashions. I grew up during the first generation of American Girl dolls, when there were only three to choose from. Now, the company offers eight different signature dolls that represent America from 1764 to 1974. All of the signature dolls have side-kick friends and then there are the customized dolls with their pets and accessories, providing almost infinite options for the young female consumer.
I was immediately struck by the Rebecca Rubin doll and some similarities to Bread Giver’s Sara Smolinksy. She represents the year 1914, after her family made the “long journey from Russia to Ellis Island.” Rebecca lives in a New York City apartment with three generations of her family, enjoys “observing the Sabbath with her extended Jewish family,” wants to become a successful independent woman, and has discovered that “it’s possible to honor family traditions and celebrate what it means to be an American.” 
That’s pretty much where the similarities end though. While Sara lived a life of hardships and struggles, Rebecca appears fresh-faced, with a lovely herringbone dress and a beautiful scarf and gold barrette. Rebecca has fun adventures and enjoys playing dress up, unlike Sara who sold herring on the streets and was working in a garment factory ten hours a day. Rebecca seems to have no problems or conflicts fitting in with her new American surrounding while staying connected and true to her old world traditions.
Our discussion in class about how to communicate complex social issues to children also came back to me as I was looking through the American Girl catalog. I could not help but notice that the company has marketed specific dolls to certain time periods. Kaya, an “adventurous” girl of the Nez Perce, represents 1764. Addy Walker, a “courageous” African American girl, represents 1864. And then of course, there is Rebecca in 1914 New York City.  Is this a good way to impart American social history on young girls today? Or is this just a sugar coated gimmick to sell expensive dolls and high end consumerism? Is it irresponsible of the company to ignore the real complexities of the time periods in which their fictional characters were living? Or are the American Girl dolls a positive gateway for young girls to further investigate the realities of these represented time periods?
 American Girl, March 2010 catalog, page 2.
 American Girl, March 2010 catalog, page 36-37.
 American Girl, January 2010 catalog, page 2-3.