Who here was an American Girl doll kid? Because I was. My poor parents. Those things were expensive. Anyway, my favorite part of American Girl was the historical doll series (perhaps foreshadowing my history major today… curse you American Girl!). Since I aged out of American Girl, the company has come out with new dolls and discontinued my favorites, but with the help of American Girl Fan Wiki, along with my own memory and flawless taste, I have compiled a definitive ranking of the historical American Girl dolls, from the worst to the best. For the purposes of this ranking, I will not be including best friend dolls, and it should be noted that a large portion of my judgement is stuck in 2012.
- Nicki and Isabel Hoffman – Nicole and Isabel are from… wait for it… the turn of the millennium. Thanks, I hate it. They would be 23 years old today. This is not history. They are not historical dolls. THEY ARE NOT HISTORICAL DOLLS. There are so many cool historical moments that American Girl could explore, but no, their most recent drop must be two white dolls from the late ’90s. Sigh…
- Maryellen Larkin – Maryellen was released after my time, but a scan of the American Girl website did not impress me. Firstly, her name is stupid. Maryellen should either be Mary-Ellen or Mary Ellen. Not one word. Secondly, she radiates strong “not like other girls” energy, which upsets me. Thirdly, her outfits are not good. Not good at all.
- Caroline Abbott – The best thing about Caroline is her bright pink meet outfit dress and her excellent curly blonde hair. Those are very good. However, Caroline’s story is dull. The War of 1812 is not the most interesting time period to set a story in. Caroline’s interest is also boats, which doesn’t translate well to dolls. She doesn’t have enough of a personality to warrant a higher ranking, which is sad, because her outfits are great.
- Courtney Moore – Courtney ranks low because she is from the ’80s, which is barely acceptable as “historical.” She also has a jazzercise-style “fitness” outfit, which should be burned. According to the American Girl wiki, her story tackles the AIDS epidemic, and while I am intrigued, I am also terrified. But hey, who am I to judge? If I’m being honest, the principal reason for Courtney’s low ranking is her truly abysmal hair.
- Kaya’aton’my – Props to American Girl for having an Indigenous doll. Less props to American Girl for having this Indigenous doll be their oldest doll (from the pre-colonial era), making it seem as though Native people are a thing of the distant past. I just don’t know how to feel about Kaya, and her story isn’t the most interesting. Something about her feels vaguely exoticizing, but at the same time, it’s cool that she exists. I am undecided.
- Kirsten Larson – She’s Swedish! With cool hair! In all honesty, Kirsten is probably the most obscure American girl doll. She was discontinued in 2009 and hasn’t come back since. While her immigrant/pioneer story is vaguely interesting, and her hair is indisputably fantastic, Kirsten just doesn’t have the staying power or icon status of the other dolls.
- Josefina Montoya – While Josefina is from what is now the American Southwest, her story takes place when that land was part of Mexico. As such, she feels more like a “Mexican Girl Doll” in terms of culture, language and the historical context of her story. While that certainly doesn’t take away from her story, outfits or personality, she feels very different from the rest of the historical line. The other dolls are either American citizens, live in America or live in an era before colonial America. I would be more forgiving if American Girl had more international dolls, but as they don’t, I don’t know what to think.
- Kit Kittredge – Known for her iconic blonde bob and love of baseball, Kit is one of the most recognizable American Girl dolls. However, I never clicked with her. Her “can-do” personality got grating quickly, and her personality just didn’t work for me. Her storyline is also a hard one to make accessible for American Girl’s target age range, and it’s more depressing than anything. Sorry, Kit! You do have awesome outfits.
- Melody Ellison – The main reason why Melody ranks in the bottom half is the fact that her main interest is music. And her name is Melody. Har-har. Anyway, Melody is the Civil Rights Era doll, but her story is sadly lacking. It suffers from coming out during the “BeForever” era of the historical dolls, meaning she only got two longer books rather than six shorter ones. As such, her storyline doens’t really live up to the potential of her time period. Also, I highly dislike her pair of sunglasses that look like alien bug eyes (why did people in the 1960s think that they looked good?).
- Samantha Parkington – It truly pains me to rank Samantha outside the top five, as she was one of my childhood favorites. However, looking back, it is hard to deny that Samantha had a huge amount of rich white savior complex, and a massive amount of privilege that was never truly unpacked in a satisfying way. However, she does have some of the best outfits, and definitely has the best mystery books. Plus, her grandmother is an icon.
- Julie Albright – Julie may have the best style of any American doll. I also love her hair, which manages to be long without easily tangling. The ’70s just barely squeaks by as “history,” but Julie’s storyline, which centers on Title IX, does a good job of feeling like historical fiction. Julie loses points for having a token Asian friend, and a questionable Lunar New Year plotline, but the perfection of her collection’s overall aesthetic and all her outfits gives her a much needed boost.
- Addy Walker – The conversation about Addy being the only standalone Black doll for years and also having a storyline about escaping slavery has been done to death at this point, so I won’t touch it. Anyway, Addy has one of the best developed characters in the American Girl franchise, and her story is one of the darkest. At the same time, the tonal whiplash of her books is intense, and her meet outfit is one of the worst in the franchise. Still, in an era where some politicians are trying to ban education about slavery and the Civil War altogether, there is definitely value in the Addy doll and her story.
- Cécile Rey and Marie-Grace Gardner – I truly don’t know why I love these two so much. They weren’t particularly successful, and are extremely obscure today. However, their outfits SLAP, and their story exposed me to an American story I had absolutely no knowledge of (the yellow fever epidemic in antebellum New Orleans). It is true that Cécile is a much more interesting character than Marie-Grace, which weakens the shared story concept. But the overall plotline is great! The outfits are great! The dolls look great! An overall win for American Girl.
- Nanea Mitchell – A biracial historical doll! Hurrah! Nanea is very much since my time, but I think she would have been one of my favorites had she been around when I was a kid. Her story (being traumatized after Pearl Harbor) is intense, but it’s great to have a Pacific Front WWII story to complement Molly’s European Front story. Plus, Nanea has a great look overall, and appears to have very well-developed best friend characters.
- Molly McIntire – Of all the “scrappy” dolls, Molly was my favorite. I particularly liked the one plotline where she imitates the D-Day landings to win the Color War at her summer camp. Icon behavior. I also liked that she wore glasses, because I wear glasses. Her relationship with Emily is also interesting and I like the way her storyline subtly critiques American war propaganda. Molly has also been brought back recently, and it is absolutely a well-deserved return.
- Claudie Wells – Of all the dolls released since I grew out of American Girl, Claudie seems to be by far the best. She is from the Harlem Renaissance, she has awesome outfits, her story is a perfect combination of kid-friendly, educational and serious. Plus, the baker set in her collection is phenomenal. Her narrative of trying to find a talent or something that makes her special feels like a powerful narrative for young girls who are less sure of themselves. And she has amazing hair.
- Felicity Merriman – Felicity’s wardrobe is truly unmatched. Her hair is also unmatched (the red! the shine! the style!). And she’s a horse girl, which is an actual achievable and cool interest in physical American Girl form. I was a Revolutionary War nerd as a kid, so I always loved Felicity’s story, and was heartbroken that she had been discontinued. BRING HER BACK, American Girl. What are you waiting for?
1. Rebecca Rubin – Can Rebecca be the unofficial Brandeis mascot? She is a Jewish theater kid suffering from the weight of parental expectations. #relatable. Rebecca has great outfits, great hair, a well-developed interest, an awesome storyline and she is JEWISH. I love her. She is the best historical doll. She is perfect. Can we get a “10 years later” storyline for her when she’s become a Hollywood star and gets a red carpet outfit?