American Girl dolls have been a staple with children since they first debuted in 1986. They initially presented historical characters at various tumultuous stages in history, surmounting obstacles and overcoming odds. There was the Colonial American Girl facing the Revolutionary War, the young pioneer whose family was settling the West, and an Eastern European immigrant at the start of the twentieth century. Each doll is given an intricate backstory which is described in a series of books about the character. In 2007, a historical doll representing childhood in the 1970s was released. This doll, Julie Albright, is the only one to feature divorced parents.
The author of the Julie Albright books, Megan McDonald, said, “I learned from watching some of my own family members go through divorce that the impact is lifelong … My hope is that readers who are children of divorce themselves will identify with Julie and her family situation and struggle, and take some solace that they are not alone.”
While the majority of the historical dolls include backstories of war, famine, and persecution – things that many of the doll owners will never experience first hand – Julie’s story hits closer to home. Because the stories are told from the first-person perspective of the child, the reasons for her parents divorce are never completely clear – which mirrors the experience of many children coming to terms with their own parents’ divorce.
Many young girls gravitate to the American Girl Dolls for their period costume, miniature furniture, and corresponding books. Outwardly, Julie may be all flower power and bell bottoms, but her family’s story is one that is quite relatable to children today.