On its official website, The American Girl doll company prides itself on its line of historical characters whose biographies comprise a look at our country’s past, stressing significant aspects of our history in a way to engage young girls. It further describes its plant: “American Girl is headquartered in Middleton, Wisconsin, in two warehouse operations and distribution facilities totalling 560,000 square feet. With the thirteen American Girl retail stores and additional warehouse and distribution sites, the company’s facilities total 1.7 million square feet. Among the company’s various locations, over 2,000 women and men are currently employed full or part-time throughout the year, with the ranks swelling to more than 4,300 during the holiday season.” Don’t let all the numbers of square feet and employees veil what’s been omitted - despite its patriotic name, American Girl dolls are actually made in China.
When it was revealed that Ralph Lauren had manufactured America’s Olympic uniforms in China, there was a great uproar about how inappropriate this was, and eventually, a promise was made to correct this dastardly deed by making all future uniforms on home ground. If the marketing for American Girl dolls weren’t so sanctimonious, making it seem as if buying one is not just a frivolous purchase but $105 invested in America’s past, present and future, perhaps it wouldn’t be so offensive to realize how duplicitous the branding is. The least we can expect of Felicity (Revolutionary War), Caroline (War of 1812), Kirsten (Pioneer life), Kaya (Native American) and Addy (Civil War) is that they be born in the country whose name they represent. Josefina, Marie-Grace, Cecile and Rebecca may be foreign but none of them is Chinese and almost all the roster of historical dolls represent such typical American virtues as resourcefulness, adaptability, goal setting and innovation.
In 2007, Mattel, parent company of American Girl, recalled more than 10 million toys made in China because of possible lead paint hazards Of interest, Americans spend $22 BILLION dollars annually on toys and China manufactures more than 80% of them. Think of the favorable publicity that would accrue to American Girl if Mattel were to announce that in light of the high rate of unemployment in this country and the concomitant economic pressures felt by the majority of our population of toy buyers, they were taking the patriotic step of bringing the manufacture of American Girl dolls home to the good old USA. I can envision the ground-breaking ceremony and all the mothers, aunts and grandparents proudly waving their American flags and gazing at Mrs. Clinton as the company announces its forthcoming historic Young Hillary doll….. After all, what could be more American than finding a way to do the right thing and making it noble and profitable at the same time.
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