What American Girl Stories Taught Me About Life

If you grew up as a 90’s child, you may remember the American Girl Dolls. I had several of them growing up. My very first one was Samantha Parkington. I got her when I was 9 years, old she sat under the Christmas tree. I could hardly believe it. Her hair was perfectly in place and her dress matched her stockings and black patent shoes. She was beautiful and classy. Each American girl doll had a storybook you could read to learn more about her life and the time period in history where she grew up. As an avid reader, I devoured each book staying up past my bedtime under the tent of my sheets, going on adventures along side my courageous fictional friends. Fast-forward a few decades later and I have to say my American Girl Dolls are safety packed away.  But I’ll never forget the lessons I’ve learned from their stories and the hope they gave me to try to make a difference in this world.  

1. Speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves.

During the Victorian Era of the early 1900’s, Samantha uncovers the horrors of child laborers working in factories in New York City. The working conditions were unsafe and unsanitary which no child should ever have to experience. She bravely brings these issues into the light during a speech about progress in America at her school. She gave a voice to those who would normally be brushed aside in that society.  As fellow Americans, we need to be bold enough to speak up for those in need, if we don’t speak up for them then who will?  

2. Your best friends are your lifelines.

Throughout all these stories, you read about our heroines best gal pals. These girls are always there for our young friends. There to encourage, love and prove loyal in both their adventures and trials. Find yourself the Nellie O’Malley to your Samantha Parkington, the Emily Bennett to your Molly McIntire, or the Singing Bird to your Kirsten Larson. If you are lucky enough to find those close friends, hold on to them tightly for they are a truly a gift in this harsh world.  

3. Have courage in the face of adversity

Addy Walker had to have great faith and courage to to escape the slave trade in North Carolina and travel with her mother to safety in Pennsylvania . She knows she must follow the directions her mother gives her even though she is greatly afraid in her heart. She uses her reading skills, which were strictly forbidden to slaves, to help navigate them to the places they needed to go and to get the help from prominent people in the community. Courage is one of the virtues all our American Girls exemplify. I hope I grow to be more courageous as I go through life despite the curve balls it tries to throw at me.  

4. There are things young girls, event adult girls, can’t always understand.

During World War II, Molly McIntire’s father, Dr. McIntire enlists to serve as a doctor in the war. She doesn’t understand why he has to go and claims his family needs him more. One night the family receives word that Dr. McIntire is missing in action. Her best friend, Emily, encourages her to keep faith that her father will return. Molly is afraid because her neighbor recently lost her young son in the war and her teacher lost her fiancé as well. Molly does not want her family to be victims of the same fate. Loss is hard no matter what age. From 9 to 29, we don’t understand why bad things happen in the world, why there are wars, why there is sickness, why fathers leave and may not come back. This concept is the hardest lesson to learn.  

5. Always stand firm in your beliefs.

In 1775, Felicity Merriman and her family were strong Patriots who opposed the king’s tax on tea. In order to adhere to her ladylike upbringing and remain faithful to her family’s beliefs she graciously responds that she ‘shall take no tea’, during her teatime at Miss Manderly’s. She stood her ground while being respectful to those who did not share her beliefs. We will encounter others whose beliefs are different than ours. We should learn to act respectful to their views while maintaining our own. At the end of the day, we all want those three things America was founded on: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Everyone deserves those things no matter where they come from or what type of story they have.