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Girls of Many Lands

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Girls of Many Lands was a short-lived line of eight books and corresponding display dolls that spanned several countries and time periods. The line was available from 2002 to 2005.

The line was aimed towards an older demographic with a suggested minimal age of ten years old; it was often shown in catalogs next to the American Girl Minis line as they were targeted towards the same older girl audience.

Primary Characters and Book Titles

Isabel: Taking Wing
Cécile: Gates of Gold
Leyla: The Black Tulip
Saba: Under the Hyena's Foot
Spring Pearl: The Last Flower
  • Minuk, representing the arrival of American Christian missionaries in the Alaskan Territory (1890)
Minuk: Ashes in the Pathway
  • Kathleen Murphy, representing Ireland during the global Great Depression (1937)
Kathleen: The Celtic Knot
  • Neela Sen, representing the emerging struggle for country independence in British-occupied India (1939)
Neela: Victory Song

Books

Each girl had one book, each one more complex both in length and topic than Historical Characters' central series with much more detailed plots and no internal illustrations. The title format included the girl's first name and a poetic subtitle evoking a descriptive image of the era and referred to events in the book (for example, Cécile: Gates of Gold refers to both the lavish lives of the pre-revolutionary French nobility and the literal gates of the Versailles Palace). Also included were the country and year when the story was set, though the year was not directly on the cover.

The cover showed a close up of the girl's face, "Girls of Many Lands" in gold script, the country setting (or culture in the case of Minuk), the character name in cursive script, and the subtitle in cap letters. The inner flap gives a descriptive blurb of the story; the back cover has a quote from the story imposed over a faded image that is shown internally.

The half title shows the title and the main character's name in her language, if in a written non-Latin language. For example, in Saba: Under the Hyena's Foot, her name is in Amharic. [1] Behind the half title is a full color splash painting of the main character in a background scene related to the book's setting. (The cover is a close-up photo from this picture).

Each character is given a decorative "ribbon"-style motif connected to their culture in black and white that borders the top of the first page of each new chapter. The books use many words from the language of the main character. A glossary is provided in the back that lists unique words and locations, their approximate pronunciations, and definitions.[2] The books are written in first person and have no internal illustrations. Stories went into more complex topics than the Historical Characters, including controversies such as civil or political discord, war and colonization, and disease.

Like the Historical Central series, each book ends with a look back at the time, called Then and Now: A Girl's Life. It discusses the social aspects of the era for girls approximately of the class and culture of the main character, and how the culture and times have moved forward to modern girls in the area. (At the top of the page, the ribbon border is shown in color.) The back flap had a removable bookmark of the character on a perforated edge and the author's data.

Books were both available with the dolls and individually.

Dolls

CecileGoML-MIB

Cécile in box with her book, Cécile: Gates of Gold.

SabaTag

Wrist tag as seen on Saba.

The dolls of the characters, approximately nine inches tall, were intended for display only and designed by Helen Kish. Each doll was made of full vinyl with jointed head, shoulders, and hips and painted eyes and features; hair was wigged. Helen Kish's identifying signature was on the sole of the left foot. There were two specific hand styles: curled under fingers and flatter, pointed fingers.

Dolls came dressed in one elaborate, detailed outfit designed to fully resemble what the character is wearing on the internal pages and cover of her respective book. The outfit was generally of an ornate style as opposed to casual wear (the exception being Minuk, whose outfit was standard wear). The outfit generally had deep significance to the character during the events of the book (for example, Neela's sari was a symbol of her impeding maturity as worn to her sister's wedding; Cécile's fancy dress showed the expectations for dress at the French Court and were given to her at arrival). There were no extra clothes for any characters; while some clothes had snaps for adjustment or ease of display, many items were sewn or tacked into place and thus the outfit was to be considered non-removable. Each doll had a wrist tag with her name, country, and year around the left wrist.[3]

GoMLStand

Doll Stand.

The dolls came in a trunk shaped cardboard box. One side held the book in a slide out base. The other side had a clear plastic window; inside the doll was attached to the slide out cardboard packaging with metal twists, clear bands, plastic, and/or sewn thread for security and display, with tape on the back to hold the thread in place. Due to the extensions of Cécile's and Isabel's dresses from bustling, they were backed with small cardboard boxes behind them to help prevent crushing of the back of the dress.

Included was a doll stand; a white circular base with the line's logo and clear leg braces that snapped around the lower leg and calves. This came stored on the back in two separate pieces that, once snapped together, were not easily separated. Smaller accessories were either packaged with the stand or attached to the doll's hand.

Costs

Prices were initially in the $48-54 range, depending on outfit complexity for the character. They were later lowered by 50% before the line was discontinued. [4]

  • Isabel: $54
  • Cécile: $52
  • Leyla: $54
  • Saba: $48
  • Spring Pearl: $50
  • Minuk: $48
  • Kathleen: $50
  • Neela: $50

Additional Components

There were no extra outfits or accessories for any of the characters. Other items in the line included:

  • Display Case: White wooden mirrored display case. Clear acrylic sides and mirror back with magnetic front. The case was designed to hold one doll. Retail cost was $38.
  • Display Shelf: White wooden display shelf with purple velvet lined storage drawer and logo at front. The shelf could hold up to five dolls and be wall mounted or set on a table with spaces between for books if disconnected. Retail cost was $58.
  • Display Risers: Additional risers for were available for $18, which connected to the sides of the shelf. This combined with the shelf offered display space for nine dolls (though the line only had eight released characters).

History of the Line

The line was launched in Holiday 2002 with the release of Isabel, Cécile, Minuk, Spring Pearl and Neela; their books; the display case; the display stand; and risers. The dolls were initially intended to each have different face molds, but Minuk's proposed smiling face mold was deemed inappropriate for the character so she shared Spring Pearl's mold. The line was marketed towards an older collector and for display rather than being for play.

In 2003, Saba, Leyla and Kathleen were released along with their books. That same year, American Girl Minis were discontinued, leaving Girls of Many Lands the only line in the catalog targeting older girls. By 2004, purchase prices had been lowered by 50% on the dolls, with lower prices on some display components.

The Girls of Many Lands line was formally retired in 2005. Theories for discontinuing mostly lean towards the collection being unpopular or a financial loss; the initial high costs of dolls may have been a deterrent as well as the forming societal idea that dolls, even of display quality, were considered immature for preteen and young teen girls.

Currently there is no line that American Girl offers for older girls (above ten), though some books are targeted towards an older demographic. The revamping of the books in the BeForever and Girls of the Year lines to remove internal illustrations are in part to have the stories appeal to an older audience.

See Also

References

  1. Noted exceptions are Minuk as Central Alaskan Yup'ik language was not in a written form until approximately 1900 with the creation of the Yugtun script and Kathleen, who does not have her name in Gaelic (Caitlín) as it likely has been Anglicized for some time.
  2. Isabel, as she speaks English, is not given a glossary.
  3. Minuk's was looped over her mitten.
  4. Prices were pulled up from the Wayback Machine.

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