American Girl

American women are incredibly diverse, with different experiences and life stories. Some of us grew up on the bustling streets of New York, hailing taxi cabs and habitating tiny apartments, while others were raised shucking corn in the rollicking plains of the Midwest. Perhaps our parents were wealthy and reared us in mansions, or maybe they struggled to make ends meet. 

Whatever our geographical, racial or class divide, women of the United States are tied together by one single thread — our mutual interest in American Girl from approximately ages 5 to 9.

Even if we didn’t own a doll, we all had a friend who did, and she was the “it girl” of the first grade. Through American Girl books, movies and dolls, their tiny vinyl hands raised America’s daughters and taught them love and self-respect. But not every doll is equal. Some are self-centered narcissists, or worse yet, just plain boring. It’s important to steer ourselves clear of the duds, so enjoy this definitive list of the original American Girl dolls ranked from worst to best.

11. Caroline Abbott (1810s)

Caroline is the biggest bore of the bunch. First off, was the War of 1812 so important that we needed an entire doll from that era? No, it wasn’t. Name one thing that happened during the War of 1812. Fighting, probably, but other than that I don’t know a single thing about it. Unfortunately, Caroline and her outfits are just as lame as the war.

Sure, she’s cute, but beauty can only take her so far. Her best quality is that she lives in a log cabin with her black cat named Inkpot, but when her cousin Lydia comes to live with her and befriends her best friend, she is super uncool about it. I like a feisty spirit within reason, but Caroline lacks compassion, earning her the bottom spot of the list. It’s no wonder she was discontinued.

10. Molly McIntire (1940s)

What a narc. Let’s address the obvious: Molly does not look good with bangs, and the perfectly circular glasses don’t do much for her features. It’s a shame that a World War II doll would have such an infatuation with bad haircuts and argyle sweaters, because she had a lot of potential, being from one of the most interesting periods of modern history. Her one fashion saving grace was her velvet Christmas dress. But, as we all know, Molly’s not like other girls complex is really what brings down her score. We get it, she’s quirky.

This all might sound harsh, but Molly could be quite conceited. She considers herself to be the best tap dancer in her class, with a girl she despises named Alison coming in close second who she’s always trying to outdo. Girls support girls, Molly.

9. Samantha Parkington (1900s)

One of them had to fulfill the age-old literary orphan trope. Though both of her parents are dead, Samantha is flushed with cash and doted on by her grandmother named Mary — whom she calls “Grandmary,” which is classic — and her weird Uncle Gardner. She’s so cute with her bangs (take note, Molly), fancy bows and headbands to accessorize, but she’s from a kind of boring time period.

The reason she’s so low on the list is solely because I don’t care about the early 1900s. Maybe something important happened then, but like the War of 1812, it doesn’t particularly dazzle me, so in ninth place she goes.

8.  Felicity Merriman (1770s)

I don’t have anything passionately negative to say about Felicity, but I don’t vibe with her as much as some of the others on the list. From the looks of it, she’s super into bonnets —  which I’ve never had a chance to get into myself — but I have to say, I don’t hate them on her. She’s described by American Girl Wiki as “tomboyish” and “spunky” and she stands up for her friends when they’re being bullied like a true ally. Plus, you could buy her lamb Posie or her horse Patriot if you were really looking to splurge.

The Revolutionary War is cool and all, but I’m not enthralled by her. The outfits are so-so, which is her time period’s fault more than anything, but I don’t think my younger self would’ve wanted to play with Felicity over some of the other choices. Perhaps if “Hamilton” had been around during my dress-up years I would’ve felt differently.

7. Kirsten Larson (1850s)

Why were we all obsessed with pioneers in elementary school? For me, pioneer day in fourth grade was the apex of my young existence. I was so excited to put on that stiff dress-apron combo and bonnet and ride out to the one-room schoolhouse at Pioneers Park to practice my cursive on a slate and, eventually, get the full outhouse experience.

Kirsten fulfilled the coveted sod house aesthetic year round for me, but I have to admit, I was more into “Little House on the Prairie'' than Kirsten. What brings up her score is her holiday outfit, which featured an angelic white dress with a wreath crown that had holly and actual candles on it. Paired with the iconic pigtail braids, the look was nothing short of iconic, and girls liked it so much American Girl sold us our own lifesize fire hats. Now, in my early twenties, I still can’t find a head piece that brings the heat quite like this one.

6. Kaya’aton’my (1760s)

Kaya is the original American girl. Though she wasn’t manufactured first, the Native American doll’s adventures took place before European Americans settled the area, and her time period predates all the historical American Girl dolls’. Her biggest obstacle is escaping a rival tribe’s captivity, which she does successfully as a result of her bravery and quick wit. I’m so glad Indigenous girls have a doll they can look up to, and Kaya is a worthy role model.

Good news, you can also purchase Kaya’s horse; if you have an extra $115 burning a hole in your pocket, that is. I’m not sure how on God’s green earth we let American Girl charge us that much money for a plastic horse, but we shouldn’t have. The act is criminal considering Kaya goes nowhere without her trusty steed. For that greedy move by American Girl doll alone, Kaya’s score is significantly reduced.

5. Rebecca Rubin (1910)

Rebecca was our loveable, Jewish American friend who struggled with fitting into American culture after emigrating from Russia. The American Girl Wiki describes Rebecca as “confident” and “inspiring,” and like a true girl boss, she has her sights set high on a professional acting career. Shoot for the stars, Rebecca.

Who couldn’t love her outfits? Along with her Hanukkah dress, the perfect outfit for a day spent playing with her menorah and dreidel set, Rebecca sported the most luxurious winter fur coat (faux, of course) and muff combination I’ve ever laid my eyes on. Paired with her black hat to add an element of mystery, Rebecca was the style icon of her generation.

4. Julie Albright (1970s)

Flower child Julie was an activist, constantly distraught over human rights issues, feminist causes and environmental problems. Not only was she the grooviest hippie we knew, but she was an absolute baller — the best on her team, in fact. She’s slick with passes and her teammates call her “Cool Hands Albright” and “Alley Oop.” Her three-point game is so strong, she even dunks on the boys in her grade.

We can all picture Julie vibing out at Woodstock or marching the streets in protest, but do her outfits and accessories radiate the same positive energy? From her bike to her roller skate set to her endless flower headbands, bandanas and flare jeans, Julie had a sense of style I totally dug as an elementary schooler. Perhaps her flashiest accessory was her car wash set, which came with a baby blue 1974 Volkswagen Super Beetle. A doll-sized one, that is. Radical.

3. Addy Walker (1860s)

This doll literally escaped slavery, which is hard to beat. I only have a vague memory of reading an Addy Walker book, but after glancing over a brief synopsis of them, it’s a story that needs to be told.

Her books contain philosophical and theological themes that seem deep for an American Girl series; she tries to bargain with God for her freedom and questions how people who look like her are allowed to be treated the way they are. If these books are done as well as they seem to be, I think they can be an effective way to get little girls to notice and empathize with those in society who have been oppressed. 

Doll-wise, she doesn’t have the most expensive dresses or the most luxurious accessories, but she’s a slave, so it makes perfect sense that she wouldn’t have the flashy things someone like Samantha would have. I appreciate that American Girl didn’t put Addy in a load of preppy outfits or accessories that didn’t make sense for someone of her status to be using. Her style gets better the more recently her dresses are released, but her original outfits and sets seek to show an accurate depiction of a Black girl of her time.

2. Josefina Montoya (1820s)

Josefina is gorgeous, and we all wish we had her hair. Rocking her single black braid thrown over the shoulder and adorned with flowers, the doll with the killer gold hoop earrings lives on a ranch with her Papá and three older sisters after Mexico won independence from Spain. Her home is not yet part of the United States but is located near Santa Fe. Spanish words are woven throughout the books, teaching girls snippets of the United States’ second most spoken language.

Not only does Josefina have the most fly moccasins, camisas and botas for riding, her accessories include a goat, chickens, a weaving loom and all the supplies necessary to make enchiladas. Not to mention, Josefina has a separate outfit specifically for weaving her next great masterpiece. Want to make pan dulce? Try Josefina’s adobe oven. Bonus, you can buy Josefina her very own doll, which is super meta.

1. Kit Kittredge (1930s)

Kit Kittredge is the best doll on the American Girl roster and no one can tell me otherwise. First off, she is so cute. Just look at her little crochet hat, freckles and bob she pins back with barretts. I’m not acknowledging the new dress they put her in, but back in my day, she was rocking a floral skirt, lavender sweater and a compass necklace to let everyone know what an adventurous free spirit she was. Plus, she came with an embroidered clutch that had a nickel inside because she made money moves like a true boss babe even in the midst of the Great Depression.

She has a super cool treehouse in her backyard that she and her gang of rapscallions use as a clubhouse and meeting place. It was the perfect venue to discuss which mystery they were going to solve next. Her desire to get the scoop often gets her into trouble, and who doesn’t love a little mischief? She has a knack for befriending hobos and bringing them justice, to the extent that one could purchase her hobo camp kit equipped with a lantern, knapsack, harmonica and cans as accessories for her ragged overall outfit. Talk about Great Depression chic! Kit is also a sneaky gal with tiny binoculars for spying. One of her best traits was that she wanted to be a journalist, which really hits home for me. How sweet are her typewriter, camera and messenger bag accessories?

Between her basset hound Grace and her best friend Ruthie, play treehouse, scooter and waffle set, Kit has all the best gadgets and toys. Her whole Nancy Drew complex is really what scoots her up to first place, though, making her the most interesting American Girl out there. Kit wouldn’t just solve petty schoolhouse mysteries, she was out there investigating real crimes, doing more than the police in her one-horse town and then some. No wonder she was the only American Girl to have a feature-length film hit the theaters. All hail Queen Kit.

culture@dailynebraskan.com