Pleasant Rowland‘s idea of using dolls to make history captivating for girls was nothing less than brilliant. More than 25 years ago, Molly McIntyre became one of the first three American Girl dolls that launched Pleasant’s now iconic American Girl brand. Through Molly’s stories, we learned about American life in the 1940s and the impact of World War II from the perspective of a 9-year-old girl. As the last of the three original American Girl Dolls to be retired, I daresay Molly will be missed. However, with her departure, a new girl has arrived from just across the pond… waiting to share her World War II experience, an experience that will prove to be quite different from that of Molly’s. Her name is Clementine, and she is the third doll in the new A Girl for All Time collection created by Frances Cain. Combining her love of European history with her desire to bring girls back to a more intelligent, age appropriate, and feminine form of play, Frances’ A Girl for all Time collection is quickly making its mark in the historic doll world.
While Molly and Clementine are only fictional characters, they give us a glimpse of what it was like to live though what was quite possibly the most turbulent time in world history. For Molly, World War II was far, far away…and with it, her father. Though her daily life was changed and she was deeply impacted on a personal level, she was herself disconnected with the traumas and could only watch and worry while waiting for it all to come to an end. Living in London, Clementine had a very different perspective. The war had come right to her doorstep and had invaded her city. For her safety, she was evacuated to rural Dover where, away from her parents and all she had ever known, her life was turned upside down.
Molly and Clementine only begin to tell the story, and with a little digging we find many real life stories that shed even more light on what life was like in the midst of World War II. One of the most inspiring of these stories was that of Anne Frank, who was forced into hiding shortly after her 13th birthday. Because she was a Jew, she faced the darkest prospects of those touched by the war. As the enemy engulfed her home in Amsterdam, she began to keep a diary of her experiences and how they affected her. Most of her writing took place during the two years she spent in hiding, revealing one of the most amazing tributes to the resilience of the human spirit. Despite living in the midst of incredible devastation and cruelty, Anne displayed a quiet but uncommon awakening of courage, a keen and deepening insight on human nature, and a remarkable ability to see beauty in the worst of circumstances.
Dolls are a natural social outlet for girls, and by turning history into a social experience it becomes an exciting drama that begs to be explored. History isn’t about people who have died, but about people who lived, and it isn’t about events that happened, but about events that shaped the future. Dolls encourage empathy, communication, and imagination and when combined with historical subjects, they have the power to inspire young girls… and old… to learn and do great things.
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