Don't Buy American Girl Dolls, Instead Try...

by - Wednesday, June 22, 2016

This blog series "Don't Buy... Instead Try..." intends to point out some of the most egregiously unethical, wasteful, and environmentally ridiculous companies out there. Instead of dwelling on their considerable awfulness, the series will focus on the other options you have for purchasing.

Every purchase we make is a vote for the kind of world we want. 
Every single purchase is political.
 Every single purchase has ethical ramifications, and 
every single purchase should be approached with a spirit of stewardship. 

We can change the world by refusing to fund extreme greed, the mistreatment of other human beings, and the trashing of the environment. We need to stay aware of the many choices available to us. Will we get it right every time? No. But if we all make little changes, we can send companies a new message, that consumers will show up if they do the right thing. 

from The Odyssey Online
Every girl in America in the 90's got the American Girl catalogs as regular mail to flip through. I think I read the vast majority of the historical fiction books that went with each doll. They covered an amazing spread of American history, from slavery to immigration to the effect of war on families. Pretty impressive when you think about it, and the dolls actually won the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Award multiple times for their educational value as well as play.

I don't remember being impressed deeply by the historical accuracy, but I loved the outfits. You could buy the dolls pajamas, dress up clothes, all the good stuff. I think Samantha was my favorite because she had the best stuff, though eventually Molly won me over. I mean, who can fight mid-century with glasses. I also went through an Addy phase and a Kiersten phase.

Remember, I never owned one of these dolls, though I did have tons of their books. That's how great I thought they were. I had a favorite without ever owning one.

So, it cuts me deep to do this to you, Molly.

Now, the company looks very different. Many of these historical dolls have been phased out and they have mega American Girl Doll Stores, not just the catalog. Go ahead, accuse me of just being bitter that they have discontinued all of my childhood dolls. It might be a little true, but it is only part of the story...

American Girls are all made in China. They aren't all that American at all.

American Girl dolls are also very expensive- 115 dollars a doll without any accessories. When a product made with cheap labor is this pricey, it's worth it to us to ask where the rest of that money goes to. Maybe before this was because the Pleasant Company still manufactured stateside, and they were only available by mail order. In 1998, the company became a subsidiary of Mattel.

Did you know Mattel (of Barbie fame) also owns American Girl dolls? And that all of that nonsense is made in China?  Mattel is another company that started out "All-American" but have since moved all of their labor overseas. So it is hard to feel too excited about Barbie's more "inclusive" line up when Mattel just got busted (yet again) for unsafe conditions for their workers.

 In 2015, both Mattel and Hasbro (the two most mainstream toy brands) failed inspections for the safety and treatment of their workers. They did so badly that they failed most of the Chinese labor laws for hiring and breaks, which is pretty impressive when you read how low those bars are. They began to be under scrutiny after a string of suicides by a sister company's workers. I hate this. I hate thinking that a child's toy, a desperate grab for a teeny bit of money, could be that destructive.

Equally disturbing is Mattel's history of very unsafe toys being made in these places. In 2007, the company recalled Barbies, Cars toys, and more because they had lead paint and unsafe magnets in them. 19 million toys had to be recalled for these reasons. Don't fool yourself, companies like these, with incredibly lax and irresponsible regard for their workers don't care more about you. If they can get away with poisoning your kids to make money, they probably will. Not exactly the American Dream, and a far cry from the really thoughtful designs that the American Girls began with.

Want to read more about how Mattel and Hasbro try to cheat their audits and refuse to comply with labor standards? Ethical Consumer has written multiple reviews on this exact topic.

Perhaps because of Barbie's clearer association with this nastiness, the company chooses not to connect the two brands, but they are both made by the same people. Yuck.

So, don't buy American Girl Dolls, Instead Try... 


1. Get them Used- Eh, this one is way tougher than most of what we have talked about, because they do still have a perceived value. On Ebay "American Girl" brings up 42,000 hits, but the dolls are actually a little more expensive. When I was a kid, the dolls were in a glass case in the library- serious business. So you can find old Molly's or Addy's, but they may be pretty expensive. You could also ask around on your local Buy Nothing, but again, perceived or emotional value might make these hard to part with.



from Pockets with Posies
2. Pockets with Posies- I love these rag dolls so much, and even if they are a little different from the American Girl dolls, I feel like they are special enough to be treasured on a similar scale. I am pretty sure this (or something very like it) is the doll that my cousin bought her daughter for Christmas, but she will have to let me know, because it is just a guess based on looks. The store is moving off of Etsy soon, but you can see the new link there. The store owner collaborates with her clients, so you could get any kind of doll that works for you.

from Roving One
3. Roving One- These rag dolls are in a similar spirit, but I think they are a little more affordable. You may have to keep an eye out for one that speaks to you. I just think they are so adorable- those legs are ridiculously sweet and lanky. Plus, they are a whopping 75 dollars cheaper than an American Girl doll.
from Riley Construction
4. Riley Construction- I think these dolls, more so than any of these others have a distinct style. They also come in more iterations (including Mermaid). Maybe not historically accurate to the American Age of Mermaids, but they still look great!

5. Kaiya's Room- Her dolls also have amazing legs. Maybe the most cartoony as opposed to stylish, but still darn cute and bound to be somebody's favorite. I also like that she does dolls of both genders, because I don't like when these things get overly girly.

Looking at even more dolls- Twiice Loved, Made with Luck, Le Petite Melina, and Little Side Kick.

from Sew My Goodness

If you already have an American Girl Doll...


So you already bought one of these dolls or your kid received one as a gift. Don't panic! The key to living a green life isn't about being perfect, it's just about trying to do better. You can find tons of great accessories and clothes for the doll. And instead of shelling out for their way overpriced accessories, try looking on Etsy for cute clothes and accessories- tons are out there! Here are some stores that sell really cute accessories:

My favorite- Sew My Goodness
Beezies Custom Dolls
Fizzy Zig Zag (Star Wars Stuff)
Little Doll Closet
JoDee Petites
Hardwood Furniture
Sandi's Dream Creation
Sweet Flutters
Creative Kids Fashions
Little Prince Charlie
Harper's Fashion City
My Fair Cottage
Faux Real Food

See how many options you have? Tons. It may be slightly different from the vision you had for your kids and grandkids, but if they don't mind, why should you? Skipping out on the American Girl doll is a vote for toy manufacturing moving back to the United States and ethical labor. Because if you are going to buy a 100 dollar doll, shouldn't it at least have been made ethically?

Want more shopping inspiration? Check out my Giant List of Shopping Lists.

You May Also Like

1 comments

  1. Thanks so much for mentioning my shop, it means a lot!

    ~ Jessica/Kaiyas Room

    ReplyDelete