Posted on

Meet American Girl Doll Samantha Parkington – Learn about Life in the Early 1900s

The American Girl Doll Samantha Parkington was born in Mount Bedford, New York, in 1895. People call that era the Gay Nineties or the Turn of the Century, meaning the turn from the 19th Century to the 20th Century. This period of history is also called the Victorian era. Queen Victoria ruled England from 1837 to 1901.

Victorianism affected many things in both England and America. The Victorian style of architecture is especially notable. Samantha’s house was based on a Victorian house in Mount Kisco, New York. Here is a quote:

“Author Valerie Tripp grew up in Mt. Kisco, New York, and she passed this house every day on her way to school. The Victorian home inspired the one she wrote about in Samantha’s stories.” American Girl Ultimate Visual Guide, p. 66.

I love Victorian houses, and I relate to many things about the Victorian era. That is when my grandparents were young. In many ways, I am still connected to that time period, and Samantha felt connected to her own time period and the times before her. Although she was born in the 1800s. She was a child in 1904. Here is a quote:

“Samantha is growing up at the start of a new century, and the world is changing fast. Samantha is excited by new ideas, but her grandmother, Grandmary, insists that the old ways of doing things are best. Sometimes Samantha feels torn between the two worlds she lives in.” American Girl The Story of America, p. 34

When Samantha Parkington was first released in 1986, she wore a plain, checked dress. It was like a school dress. When Samantha was re-released as a Beforever Doll in 2014, she arrived in a frilly pink dress.

Here is what the American Girl website says about Samantha and her Beforever Meet Outfit:

Samantha Parkington is kind, generous, and always ready to make a new friend. She has sparkling brown eyes that open and close and long, glossy brown curls. She comes in an authentic 1904 outfit [which includes]:

  • A petal-pink dress with a layer of sheer dotted mesh on top, a lace hem and collar, short puff sleeves, and a burgundy velvet sash
  • White tights
  • White bloomers [or underpants]
  • Black Mary Jane shoes
  • A burgundy ribbon for her hair

Samantha’s accessories include a velvet purse and a locket. Here is what the American Girl website says about Samantha’s Accessories:

When Samantha is out and about, she always brings her favorite accessories:

  • A golden locket necklace that she keeps close to her heart
  • A lace headband featuring a pretty two-tone flower with pearly accents at the center
  • A velvet burgundy purse on a golden chain, just in case she walks by Mr. Carruthers’ Candy Shop—or a friend in need

 

Although the books tell us that Samantha would rather be climbing trees than acting like a proper lady, I see Samantha as lacey and fine. Her pink coat and hat are part of my favorite American Girl outfit. Beneath her pink coat in this picture, Samantha is wearing her Flower Picking Dress and Button Up Boots. Again, Samantha’s clothes are some of my favorite clothes. In the right photo, Samantha is carrying her Traveling Bag in one hand and her Lacy Parasol in the other. American Girl still sells the Lacy Parasol.

Quite often, Victorian homes have fancy, little garden houses or shelters behind them. These are called Gazebos, and Samantha has a Gazebo. In this picture, Samantha is serving her Summertime Treats in her Gazebo. You can still buy Samantha’s Summertime Treats. Here is what the American Girl website says about them:

Samantha is ready for a delightful afternoon party! Her celebration will be the sweetest one yet with this set [which includes]:

  • Colorful faux petits fours to serve on a golden-rimmed plate with a dainty doily
  • Two pink glasses
  • A matching pink vase for holding the flowers that Samantha picked that morning
  • A lacy fan to help her keep cool
  • A pair of napkins

Samantha often paints while she is out in her gazebo, too. Here is a quote about Samantha and her interest in art:

“Painting and drawing are popular hobbies for young ladies at the turn of the century. Samantha’s dream is to be a professional painter one day, like her hero, the famous Mary Cassatt.” American Girl The Story of America, p. 34

Mary Cassatt was an Impressionist painter, and she is known for her paintings of mothers with their children. Most Impressionists were from France and were men. Mary Cassatt was from American, and she was a woman.

In this picture, Samantha is dressed in her School Outfit, which has a Buster Brown look to it. Buster Brown was a comic strip character created in 1902 by Richard F. Outcault, and he was adopted as the mascot of the Brown Shoe Company in 1904. Samantha Parkington’s tenth birthday was in 1904. Buster Brown, his sweetheart Mary Jane, and his dog Tige, an American Pit Bull Terrier, were well-known to the American public in the early 20th century. The character’s name was also used to describe a popular style of suit for young boys, the Buster Brown suit, that echoed his own outfit.[1] Wikipedia

Mary Jane Shoes are typically black with straps across the top. They are named for Buster Brown’s sweetheart Mary Jane. Like Buster Brown and his girlfriend, Samantha often wears Mary Jane shoes.

When Samantha Parkington was a child, only the wealthier children were able to go to school, but they didn’t dress for school the way that we do today. They also sat in different kinds of desks. Because there were no cafeterias at school when she was a child, Samantha carried her lunch to school in a tin pail.

When she was a child, Samantha made the acquaintance of a poor girl named Nellie, and poor children were not allowed to stay in school. They had to quit school and go to work early–while they were still children. Regardless of the fact that Samantha was wealthy and Nellie was poor, Samantha was Nellie’s friend, and Samantha invited Nellie to her parties, and she shared her toys with her.

Samantha’s Aunt Cornelia rallied for the rights of women. She was what is called a Suffragist or a Suffragette. Like her aunt, Samantha also rallied, but she rallied for the rights of children, and she spoke out against child labor, the tradition that forced poor children like Nellie to quit school and go to work. Samantha’s Aunt Cornelia ultimately adopts Nellie, and Nellie has privileges, too.

When Samantha was a child, the horse and buggy days were beginning to end, and people were finding other ways to travel. Bicycles were very popular, and Samantha had a bicycle. Samantha called her grandmother Grandmary, and although it did not make her Grandmary happy, Samantha got a pair of pants to make riding her bicycle easier. Samantha’s bicycle pants were called bloomers. Here is a quote:

“Amelia Bloomer popularized bloomers (loose-fitting pants) for women. She believed that ladies should wear comfortable fashions for activities such as cycling.” American Girl Ultimate Visual Guide, p. 36.

During the Victoria era, children often wore sailor outfits. Queen Victoria’s children’s portraits were done in sailor suits. Samantha’s bathing suits look like sailor suits. The skirt of Samatha’s Piney Point bathing suit opens, and she wears bloomers underneath the skirt.

When Samantha was a child, Teddy Roosevelt was elected president. He was president from 1901 – 1908. Because he had refused to shoot a bear while out hunting, the first Teddy bear was created in honor of President Roosevelt. Samantha received a Teddy bear for her birthday in 1904.

But my favorite of Samantha’s toys is her Clara doll, which is no longer made. Samantha received her doll for Christmas. I am happy to say that my Samantha doll has a Clara doll–a doll of her own. You might want to check out my video about the American Girl Dolls Who Have Dolls of Their Own. Samantha was wearing her Cranberry Christmas Dress in her Christmas Story Book: Samantha’s Surprise.

Samantha’s Cranberry Christmas Dress is part of her original wardrobe. It is designed in the Victorian Blouson syle, which was popular during the Turn of the Century. Here is a definition of Blouson: a woman’s outer garment having a drawstring, belt, or similar closing, at or below the waist, which causes it to blouse. .[or poof above the waist].  Samantha’s original outfit patterns also include her Winter Plaid Cape and Garters, and her Birthday Dress and Pinafore.

©Jacki Kellum March 19, 2017

 

Posted on

Meet the American Girl Doll Kirsten Larson Learn America’s History

Kirsten Larson was a child in 1854 and from the Minnesota Territory, before it became a state. If  you consider Marie-Grace and Cecile as a unit, Kirsten is the sixth historical American Girl doll.

]

Kirsten Larson is from nearly the same time period as Laura Ingalls Wilder, who wrote the Little House on the Prairie books, and she lived in almost the same part of the USA. Both Laura Ingalls Wilder and Kirsten Larson were pioneer girls, and Kirsten Larson attends school in a school house that is much the same as the school house where Laura Ingalls Wilder attended school. In this picture, you see Kirsten in her red school dress and shawl. This is one of Kirsten’s original outfits.

At school, Kirsten sat on a little log bench, and she carried her lunch in a little wooden box called a tine. Because Kirsten had difficulty speaking English, she initially had trouble making new friends, but going to school helped her make friends and helped her improve her English, too. Kirsten’s teacher was Miss Winston, and when Miss Winston came to live with the Larsons, Kirsten began to learn English more quickly. After that, she made friends more easily.

Here is a quote from a very good book about American Girl Dolls:

“With a pioneering spirit, Kirsten and her family leave their home in Sweden to set sail for America. After many months of traveling, they finally arrive in the Minnesota Territory. Everything in the New World is strange, but friends and family help Kirsten find the true meaning of home.: American Girl Ultimate Visual Guide, p. 57.

Kirsten Larson’s school Recess Outfit Includes the blue coat that she is wearing in the bottom photo. Here is a quote about Kirsten’s school, friends, and recess;

“At first, Kirsten finds it difficult to adjust to school in Minnesota. Between lessons, Kirsten’s classmates play games outdoors. Always excited to try new things, Kirsten joins in the fun. She soon makes new friends and settles in. Having made new friends in Minnesota feels more like an American. For her birthday Kirsten’s friends give her a quilt. It’s signed, ‘For Kirsten Larson on her 10th birthday.’ ” American Girl Ultimate Visual Guide, p. 56.

You also see Kirsten’s bed and  trunk in this photo. They are hand-painted in traditional Scandinavian style. Kirsten’s family brought this furniture with them from Sweden, and they store their treasures in the trunk.

Kirsten Larson’s doll Sari is one of the treasures that traveled from Sweden in the trunk. Kirsten’s rag doll is very much how I imagine Laura Ingalls Wilder’s doll that she received for Christmas in Little House in the Big Woods. The Kirsten Doll has a doll of her own, and her name is Sari. You might want to check out my post and video about American Girl Dolls Who Have Dolls of Their Own.

Because they had to sail across the ocean to live in America, the Swedish immigrants couldn’t pack and bring many things with them. They didn’t even have much silverware–or in Kirsten’s case–wooden ware. When the Swedish immigrants visited each other’s homes for dinner or parties, they would carry their own eating utensils with them. Kirsten carried her wooden spoon in a spoon bag that she tied around her waist. Here is another quote:

“Swedish immigrants owned just enough utensils for their own families. They could not bring much with them on their voyage. Guests carried their own utensils in spoon bags when they went to other immigrants’ homes for parties.” American Girl Ultimate Visual Guide, p. 56.

Kirsten’s home in Minnesota was in the top of the northern part of the USA, and that is an area that gets very cold during the winter. At the time when Kirsten was a child, some of the winters were brutally cold where she lived. Laura Ingalls Wilder often wrote about living in these northern territories as a pioneer. One of Wilder’s books is titled The Long Winter. Because she lived where it was so cold, Kirsten has many beautiful winter outfits. Kirsten even had a pair of snow shoes and a pair of ice skates that strap around her boots. Kirsten’s red boots are still highly prized among collectors, and several companies sell red look-alike boots. Here is another quote:

“To help keep Kirsten warm, her mother knits a sweater, hat, and mittens using traditional Scandinavian patterns.” American Girl Ultimate Visual Guide, p. 58.

One of Kirsten’s most prized outfits is her Saint Lucia outfit. Here are more quotes about Kirsten, her winters, and her celebrations of Saint Lucia:

“Saint Lucia’s Day is a holiday celebrated during winter in Sweden to welcome the arrival of lighter days to come. Kirsten dresses up in a special outfit on this day. The Saint Lucia wreath that Kirsten wears symbolizes the coming of brighter days.” American Girl The Story of America, p. 26.

“Kirsten’s first winter in Minnesota feels long and cold and she is tired of spending all day stuck inside her family’s tiny cabin. To make matters worse, celebrating her first Christmas in America makes Kirsten homesick. Kirsten is determined to continue the family’s Swedish traditions in America. Kirsten sets out her family’s holiday items to make the cabin feel like their home in Sweden.” American Girl Ultimate Visual Guide, p. 58.

If you look at my American Girl Doll Map, you will see that with the addition of Kirsten Larson, the American Girl Doll homes have begun to circle the continental United States of America. Kaya, from 1764 is from the Northwest. Felicity Merriman from 1774, is from Williamsburg, Virginia, which is completely across the country from Kaya, on the East coast. Caroline Abbot, from 1812, is from upstate New York, on Lake Ontario, and Josefina Montoya, from 1824 is from Santa Fe, New Mexico, which is in the Southwest. With Kirsten Larson, we have another doll from the North of the USA, and she is from Minnesota.

One thing that I love about American Girl Dolls is that they help us realize how much of a melting pot America is. If we are all perfectly honest, we must admit that every human in America is an immigrant. Kaya and other Native Americans arrived here before the rest of us, but even the people that we call “Native Americans” are immigrants. At one time, the waters that separated the USA and Asia were a solid land mass, and the Native Americans walked across that land and migrated from Asia to America.

Felicity Merriman’s family immigrated across the Atlantic Ocean from England to Virginia, and Kirsten Larson’s family immigrated across the same ocean from Sweden to Minnesota. Both Felicity and Kirsten immigrated from the continent of Europe.

©Jacki Kellum March 13, 2017

Posted on

Meet the American Girl Doll Josefina Montoya – Learn the History of America

Chronologically speaking the fourth historical American Girl Doll is Josefina Montoya who is from Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1824.

If we look at a map of the United States, we can see that with the addition of Josefina, we now have dolls from 4 sides of the country. The first doll Kaya is from the Northwest, and Felicity Merriman is from Wiliamsburg, VA, which is on the East Coast, which is completely on the other side of the country. Caroline Abbott is from the extreme northern part of the United States, in Sackets Harbor, New York. She is almost from Canada, and Josefina is from the Southwest. I love the American Girl Doll Company’s commitment to teaching history through the American Girl Dolls, and as you will begin to see, the dolls are also used to teach about the huge variety of cultures in America.

Throughout this article, I’ll be referring to passages from two excellent American Girl Doll books: American Girl: The Story of America and American Girl Ultimate Visual Guide. Both of these were published by DK.

“Josefina’s aunt, Tia Magdalena, is a healer. She teaches Josefina to use herbs from her garden on the rancho as medicine.” American Girl: The Story of America, p. 18.

Tia is the Spanish word for Aunt.

In the above picture, Josefina is wearing her Herb Gathering Outfit, and she her Rebozo is wrapped around her head.

“A long, fringed rebozo covers Josefina’s head from the sun when it’s hot, and keeps her warm on cool evenings.” American Girl Ultimate Visual Guide, p. 48.

Image result for josefina heirloom accessories

You can still buy Josefina’s rebozo at americangirl.com. The rebozo is part of the set Josefina’s accessories.

The yellow-striped dress is Josefina’s Christmas dress, and she is wearing a black mantilla, which is a veil that is held in place by a fancy comb. Josefina’s mamá makes her a doll, who wears the same dress and a similar black veil.

“Josefina enjoys sewing and making clothes for herself. When her aunt gives Josefina some striped fabric, Josefina makes a dress to wear on Noche Buena, Christmas Eve–the most special night of the year on the rancho. … Her doll Niña was made by her mamá.” American Girl Ultimate Visual Guide, p. 49.

Josefina’s doll is part of her Nighttime Accessories Collection that is still stole at americangirl.com.

Josefina has a rug blanket on her bed.

“Josefina learns how to weave warm blankets using colored yarn and a loom. ” American Girl Ultimate Visual Guide, p. 48.

“When night falls on the rancho, Josefina is tucked up beneath a colorful blanket, and she has sweet dreams on her soft mattress, called a colchon. A cozy rug is the perfect spot to say good night to her pet goat Sombrita.” Josefina’s black-and-white goat is name Sombrita. This is Spanish for ‘little shadow,’ because the goat follows Josefina wherever she goes!” American Girl Ultimate Visual Guide, p. 49.

“Whether it’s a family dinner or special fiesta, osefina enjoys the hustle and bustle of working in the cocina, or kitchen. Together, Josefina and her three sisters make traditional New Mexican foods, such as tortillas, using fresh ingredients gathered from their kitchen garden. Josefina and her family use an outdoor oven called a horno for baking.” American Girl Ultimate Visual Guide, p. 51.

“Instead of celebrating her birthday, Josefina celebrates the feast day of San José, the saint she was named after. Helping Josefina look her best, her sisters bring out Mamá’s embroidered shawl and black fan, treasures saved just for special occasions.”  American Girl Ultimate Visual Guide, p. 5

One thing that I love about American Girl Dolls is that they help us realize how much of a melting pot America is. If we are all perfectly honest, we must admit that every human in America is an immigrant. Kaya and other Native Americans arrived here before the rest of us, but even the people that we call “Native Americans” are immigrants. At one time, the waters that separated the USA and Asia were a solid land mass, and the Native Americans walked across that land and migrated from Asia to America.

Felicity’s people sailed across the Atlantic Ocean and migrated from England to Williamsburg, VA.

Josefina’s people came from what once was Mexico but that became New Mexico when that area broke away from Spanish rule.

“In 1821, New Mexico becomes part of Mexico, which declares independence from Spain. When a new trail from Missouri Connects the U.S. to Mexico, American traders travel to Santa Fe for the first time. An exciting relationship develops between the two countries. In 1912, New Mexico joins the United States.” American Girl: The Story of America, p. 20.

“Before Mexico gained independence, the land was called New Spain. Other states were once part of Mexico, too, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming.” American Girl: The Story of America, p. 21.

“New trade routes mean people in Mexico and the U.S. get to learn more about each other. When Americanos (American traders) come to Santa Fe, they get a glimpse of New Mexican life. Americans get to see New Mexican style, such as dresses, rebozos (shawls), and lacy fans–just like Josefina’s–for the first time.” American Girl: The Story of America. p. 20.

You can still buy Josefina’s Feast Outfit at americangirl.com

Here is what the website says about the Feast Outfit:

Instead of celebrating her birthday, Josefina celebrates the feast day of San José, the saint for whom she was named. She’ll be the star of her special party in this outfit that features:

  • A crisp white camisa, or blouse, edged with rows of ruffles
  • A brilliant turquoise skirt with embroidered trim
  • A wide orange sash that ties in back
  • Fancy slippers in turquoise satin—a surprise gift from her sister Clara
  • Silky red ribbons for her hair

You can also still buy Josefina’s Heirloom Accessories at americangirl.com

 Image result for josefina heirloom accessories

Other of Josefina’s Outfits:

Josefina Party Outfit:

 

 

Women from Mexico City, who were inspired by the European styles of the day, often visited Santa Fe wearing outfits like this one, which features:

  • A dress made of a floral calico print with a raised empire waist and tabbed trim
  • A fitted black spencer jacket

Josefina’s Havest Outfit

 

 

 

©Jacki Kellum March 12, 2017

Posted on

The American Girl Dolls Who Have Dolls of Their Own – We All Need Something to Cuddle – We Have Always Needed Dolls

I recently launched a Doll Club for American Girls at my local library, and although my little town only has 7,000 residents in it, we had almost 60 girls at our first club meeting. I had told the girls to bring their dolls. At the first club meeting, the girls did not know each other, and many did not know me. All of us felt a little unsure. At one point, I looked out across the crowd of girls and each one of them was cuddling their American Girl Dolls. It made me want to cry, and it convinced me that deep within ourselves, we all need something to cuddle. We all need a doll.

I love the way that the American Girl Doll Companies have developed dolls for several of the American Girl dolls, and I love how those various dolls’ dolls depict important details about the periods of history in which the dolls lived. In this post, I’ll examine some of the American Girl Dolls that have dolls of their own, and I’ll discuss ways that these dolls’ dolls help us better understand their respective periods in history.

When Kaya was a girl, the Nez Perce mothers carried their babies in cradleboards. When girls play with dolls, they are often pretending that they too are mothers, and at the time when Kaya was a child, the Nez Perce girls often created cradleboards for their dolls. They were pretending to be mothers in the ways that their mothers had exemplified for them. In 1764, Nez Perce girls wore dresses that had been laced together from pieces of deer skin or other leather, and both Kaya and her doll wear fringed, deerskin dresses. Kaya’s cradleboard has a strap that fits over the horn of her horse’s saddle, and like an actual Nez Perce baby, Kaya’s  doll can be laced into her cradleboard. Kaya’s doll is a rag doll.

Felicity Merriman was a child in 1774, which was only ten years after the time that Kaya was a child. but because Felicity was not Native American and because she was a child of some of the British immigrants who came to America, Felicity’s doll is not at all like Kaya’s doll. When Felicity was shopping for a new dress to wear to the holiday tea, she spotted her doll in a shop window. Felicity’s doll is wearing a fancy blue dress like Felicity’s holiday gown, and she is not a rag doll. She is made of wood. “Did you know? Many children in the 1770s played with wooden toys, including yo-yos, puzzles, and spinning tops.” American Girl: The Story of America, p. 12.

Josefina Montoya is from New Mexico in 1824, after New Mexico had gained independence from Spanish rule. Josefina’s doll Niña is wearing a dress that matches Josefina’s Christmas dress. Josefina sewed her own dress. Here is what the book American Girl Ultimate Visual Guide had to say about Josefina, her Christmas dress, and her doll:

“Josefina enjoys sewing and making clothes for herself. When her aunt gives Josefina some striped fabric, Josefina makes a dress to wear on Noche Buena, Christmas Eve–the most special night of the year on the rancho. … Her doll Niña was made by her mamá. p. 49

Kirsten Larson’s family immigrated to Minnesota from Sweden, and she is from the year 1854. Kirsten Larson reminds me of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House on the Prairie books. One Christmas, Laura Ingalls Wilder received a rag doll for Christmas, and Kirsten’s rag doll is like how I imagine the doll that Laura Ingalls Wilder received. Kirsten’s doll is dressed very much like Kirsten in her baking outfit. Notice how both Kirsten and her doll have braids that are turned upward.

Addy Walker is from 1854, and she was an escaped slave. Addy’s doll is also a rag doll, and like Kaya’s doll, it is not fancy. Having been a slave, she would not have had a fancy doll. Here is what the book American Girl Ultimate Visual Guide had to say about Addy and her doll:

“Like many children born into slavery. Addy doesn’t know her own birthday, so she chooses a day. She picks April 9, the day the Civil War ended in 1865 and all slaves were freed. Some night, Addy reads Mother Goose in Hieroglyphics, when she is tucked in bed with Ida Bean–the rag doll Momma made for her.” p. 60.

Samantha Parkington is from 1904, which is only 50 years after Addy Walker. But Samantha’s life was very different from Addy’s life, and in comparing Samantha’s Clara doll to Addy’s doll, we begin to understand how the American Girl Dolls’s dolls tell a great deal about the lives that different types of people have lived in America throughout history. Samantha had beautiful clothes, a lovely home, and a frilly lifestyle, and her Clara doll is ceramic and frilly–just like Samantha herself.

Kit Kittredge is from 1934, and her family did suffer financially from the Great Depression. Her doll is a rag doll, but I believe that the most significant thing about Kit’s doll is that she is a tribute to the famous female aviator Amelia Earhart, who vanished in 1937, while attempting to make a round the world flight. Amelia Earhart was the first female aviator.

Molly McIntire is from 1944. I was born in 1950, and I identify with many things about Molly. When I was a girl, many girls wanted to be nurses. At that time, girls were still not encouraged to be doctors, and many of us went through a nurse phase. When I was about 7-years-old, there was a career day at my little church’s Vacation Bible School, and everyone was asked to dress up like the career that they wanted for themselves. Most of us wore ridiculously simple and homemade costumes, but one of my friends had an authentic nurse costume. It had a blue wool cape and a real nurse cap. That was 60 years ago, and I remember it like it was yesterday. I am very much an artsy type, but for a week or two, I even wanted to be a nurse when I grew up.

Here is what the book American Girl Ultimate Visual Guide had to say about Molly and her doll:

“Although her father can’t be with them on Christmas Day, Molly and her family receive a surprise package from him. It is filled with beautiful gifts for the family. Molly gets the nurse doll of her dreams.” p. 81.

Research into the distant past tells us that girls have always found ways to pretend to be mothers and to pretend to have babies of their own. If you remember, I said that Laura Ingalls Wilder received a rag doll one Christmas. Before she received her rag doll, Laura had simply wrapped a corn cob in cloth, and she had cuddled her corn cob, as though it was her very own baby. Even during ancient times, children have cuddled sticks and rocks, pretending that they were their babies. The Gruffalo’s doll is based on this very real part of the world’s history.

As I said before, we all need something to cuddle. We all need a doll.

©Jacki Kellum March 11, 2017

 

 

 

Posted on

American Girl: The Story of America – Review and Summary of the DK Book – Part I Kaya

The thing that separates the American Girl Dolls from the rest of the toy herd is that the American Girl Dolls’ collective stories have been carefully woven together to tell the history of America.

I have recently received my copy of the newer DK Book American Girl: The Story of America, but even before this new American Girl history book was released, I made a short YouTube video that traces the American Girl Dolls through history:

I’d like to take a few minutes now to extend my thoughts on how the American Girl Dolls teach us the history of America, as I share some highlights from the book American Girl: The Story of America.

American Girl: The Story of America was released February 4, 2017, and it primarily features the newer Beforever versions of the historical American Girl Dolls.

Note: Felicity Merriman was re-released as a new and upgraded Beforever Doll on February 9, 2017, and therefore, the section about Felicity does not show her in her wonderful new turquoise and yellow outfit, but most of the images in the book American Girl: The Story of America show the dolls in their newer Beforever outfits.

Here is what Amazon has to say about the new book American Girl: The Story of America:

“Discover history with American Girl®.

“Step into key moments from America’s history with the American Girl BeForever™ characters in American Girl: The Story of America. Travel back in time-from the 1750s to the groovy ’70s. Find out how the Nez Perce tribe lived, what it was like to grow up on the wild frontier, how girls helped the war effort during WWII, and much more.

“Fascinating facts are paired with historically accurate items from the American Girl Doll collections to illustrate important eras in American history. Young readers will engage with history as they meet each character and discover her incredible story.

© 2016 American Girl. All rights reserved. American Girl and associated trademarks are owned by and used under license from American Girl.

Introduction

The introduction to the book begins as follows:

“Travel back in time with the BeForever characters. This exciting guide will show you what life was like for American girls in times past. You will be alongside your favorite characters for the key moments in the inspirational story of the Univ=ted States and discover that girls have always shared hopes, challenges, and dreams–just like you.” American Girl: The Story of America, p. 4.

Meet Kaya

The book American Girl: The Story of America is laid out chronologically; therefore, Kaya, who is from 1764, is the first doll that we meet.

“Kaya is a courageous Native American girl, growing up in the Nez Perce tribe before America became a country.

“The Nez Perce are hunter-gatherers, which means that during the warmer months, they travel through the forests and grassy plains of their Pacific Northwest homeland. They set up camp wherever they find a good source of food, and gather as much as they can to store for winter. Then, they move on when supplies run low.” American Girl: The Story of America, p. 6.

“Did you know?

“In Kaya’s ime, the Nez Perce’s homeland covered about 27,000 square miles of modern-day Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.” American Girl: The Story of America, p. 8

“With no paved roads, Kaya’s people rely on horses to travel long distances. The Nez Perce, like many other tribes, train their own horses to help them travel and hunt.” American Girl: The Story of America, p. 8

You might enjoy my short YouTube video:

“Kaya’s people believe that the land does not belong to humans alone, but rather to all the creatures that live on it. It is ever person’s duty to respect nature, care for the animals, and share the land with them.”  American Girl: The Story of America, p. 9

Not much is said about any single doll, but because all of the historical dolls that had been made at the time are included chronologically in the book, it does offer a historical overview. Another nice thing is that a timeline runs along the bottom of the book, and it becomes possible to see what else was happening in the world at the time that each doll is placed.

 Here is what happened on the timeline during Kaya’s lifetime or not long before then:

1492 – Voyage to America

“Christopher Columbus sets out from Spain and lands in America. More explorers visit the ‘New World.’

1500s New animals

“Spanish explorers bring horses to North America. The animals allow Native Americans to travel faster.” American Girl: The Story of America, p. 8.

1621 – First Thanksgiving

“In Plymouth, Massachusetts, settlers from England share a meal with the Native Americans who have helped them learn to fish, hunt, and grow corn.”

1770 – Population grows

“Two million settlers live in America. [In 2014, the population of the United States was 318.9 million people.] Philadelphia is the largest city.” American Girl: The Story of America, p. 9.

In Part 2, I’ll talk about Felicity Merriman, an American Girl Doll from the American Revolution era of history.

©Jacki Kellum March 5, 2017

 

Posted on

Meet American Girl Doll Marie-Grace Gardner and Celebrate New Orleans and the Mardi Gras

 

 Marie-Grace and Cecile are normally considered as a unit, but I’ll be discussing them separately. I’ll also be posting a feature about Cecile Rey, but for now, I am concentrating on Marie-Grace.

Marie-Grace Gardner was from Ole New Orleans, Louisiana, which is at the center of the southern most past of the USA. It is where the Mississippi River Empties into the Gulf of Mexico

I have spent most of my life in Mississippi, which is the state that neighbors Louisiana. The Mississippi River flows between Mississippi and Louisiana, and our two states share much of the same culture.

New Orleans is one of the best places to celebrate Mardi Gras in the United States, and it is almost time for Mardi Gras. I thought that I would take a minute to tell you about Marie-Grace, Mardi Gras, and New Orleans. New Orleans was settled by the French, and many say that Mardi Gras came to the USA with the French many years before it became a formally organized celebration.The words “Mardi Gras” are French words. Mardi means Tuesday and Gras means Fat. When Americans say Mardi Gras, they mean Fat Tuesday, which is the last day of partying and eating rich food and desserts before Ash Wednesday, which is the first day of Lent.

The first official Mardi Gras in New Orleans was 1856, and historically speaking, Marie-Grace is from 1853. People wear costumes and masks to Mardi Gras parties, and both Marie-Gras and Cecile have Mardi Gras costumes.

The Civil War was fought in America between 1861 and 1865, and Southern Ladies wore beautiful gowns with hoops beneath them. The hoops made the skirts stand out in a wide circle. They also wore gloves, and often, the gloves were made of lace. Marie-Grace only lasted on the buyer’s market for three years. Unlike most of the American Girl Dolls, there were several problems with the way that she was presented, and I believe that her dresses were part of the problem. They simply were not true to the Antebellum style of her day. Marie-Grace’s dresses are far too modern for the 1800s, but since I am from Mississippi–only a few miles from New Orleans, I am pleased that we have a New Orleans American Girl Doll. I believe that a great deal can still be done with her story.

New Orleans is a mystical place. Plantation houses still stand all around the areas, and since it is so far South, most of the year, it is a tropical garden.

There are swamps, like the Atchafalya Swamp, all around New Orleans, and the swamps are teeming with alligators. Last but not least, New Orleans is the home to a huge Mardi Gras Celebration. Laissez les bon temps rouler, which is French for Let the Good Times Roll. Happy Mardi Gras!

©Jacki Kellum February 23, 2017