American Girl Dolls Ranked In Order of Gayness

e567dfc95729cdfaf206968aed636ace--girl-illustrations-ag-dollsI’ve written at some length about how American Girl’s story model is pretty inherently gay: take a girl from a given historical period, have her run up against the gendered conventions of the era, ???, profit. The line was always meant to run counter to hypersexualized dolls like Barbie and Bratz, and so the focus of all the stories is female friendship. It is a rare thing for an American Girl to even speak to a boy to whom she’s not related. And when this does happen, it’s probably because the boy was antagonizing the American Girl in question, and she had to put him in his place. See left, where Kit Kittredge is wasting some Young Republican because he insulted her impoverished family.

Anyway, the upshot of all this is that all of the American Girl stories are inherently gay. Or, at the very least, relatable and safe for young, questioning lesbian and bi girls in a way that the vast majority of media isn’t. With that in mind, we’re ranking all of American Girl’s historical characters in order of inherent gayness. Let’s roll.

15. Caroline Abbott

Meet-Caroline-Abbott-1812-American-Girl-dollI’ve always been unjustifiably salty about Caroline because American Girl used the real-life story of Laura Secord as the basis for one of her books. Like, why gank the heroism of a Canadian woman for an American Girl doll? Especially when the entire point of the War of 1812 was that Canada was trying to stomp the United States into the dust and burn down the White House?

But I digress. All silly historical revisionism aside, Caroline pretty plainly represents a weird and uncharacteristic attempt by American Girl to cash in on all the traditional trappings of toys for girls. She’s blue-eyed, blonde-haired, peachy pale, sporting a pink dress replete with ruffles and ribbons and florals. There is nothing gay about Caroline. She is heteronormativity embodied. And she didn’t last very long, either – introduced in 2012, retired by mid-2015 – which would indicate that American Girl does, in fact, belong to the gays. Next!

14. Maryellen Larkin

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Okay, so I was initially going to write about how Maryellen seems to be pretty straight, representing as she does the halcyon, repressed days of the Eisenhower administration. But. BUT. I just trawled her American Girl Wiki page because I admittedly know nothing about the character and I found some incredible factoids:

  • Her favorite TV shows include Davy Crockett and The Lone Ranger, and she dreams up episodes where she gets to be the hero.
  • Maryellen is often considered “wild and tomboyish” by her sisters; some of her closest friends are boys and she’s always playing the same things they do.
  • She’s also highly interested in science, especially rocket science and medicine (due to her having polio).
  • Maryellen is open-minded and doesn’t judge people by appearances or align with popular sentiment. Examples include continuing to be best friends with a boy even after being told that girls “don’t do that.”
  • While many of her friends looked down on Italians (due to Italy being aligned with Germany and Japan during WWII), Maryellen befriends an Italian girl.

I apologize, Maryellen, and I support you and your forbidden Italian girlfriend. Long may you watch cowboy movies and pursue rocket science.

13. Kirsten Larson

KirstendollfullBoy, they really deep-sixed poor Kirsten, huh? Archived into oblivion in 2010 after being around since the very beginning. Tragic.

Kirsten gains major lesbian cred for the fact that she fell victim to Bury Your Gays in her very first book, when her new friend Marta died tragically before their pioneer families could even complete the journey from Sweden to Minnesota. You know how you could never get through a game of Oregon Trail without some poor pixelated sap dying of cholera? Marta was that poor pixelated sap.

Oh, and here’s an extra tragic little snippet from her AG Wiki page:

Marta’s family does not take the train to Chicago like the Larsons; her father says the train is loud and smoky, and that they might be afraid of them. Because of their separate routes, she is worried that she and Kirsten will never see each other again. Kirsten tells her to look at the sun when she’s lonely as they all see the same sun. Kirsten and Marta promise to look at the sun and pray for each other, and Marta promises to look for her everywhere.

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12. Rebecca Rubin

RebeccaBFDollFullRebecca is a Russian Jewish immigrant who’s obsessed with Yiddish theatre and vaudeville shows and wears purple all the time. Like! It’s just not subtle. She’s going to be a Broadway diva or a silent film star at the height of the roaring twenties, surrounded by gays on all sides and basking in expressional freedom before the advent of the Hays Code.

Also, in the grand American Girl tradition of “never speaking to a boy unless it’s to drag him nearly to death,” here’s a little chunk of the synopsis of her first book:

Leo stared at Rebecca as she swept. She proudly told him she was helping with her Father’s store, but Leo sniffed that Rebecca was nothing but a street sweeper. Angry at Leo, she told him sweeping the sidewalk was very important and if he knew how to work hard, he wouldn’t have to wear the dunce cap at school. Leo’s cheeks turned red as he threatened to leave with his mother if Rebecca wasn’t polite. He then went into the store, slamming the door behind him.

Slay a bit, Rebecca.

11. Josefina Montoya

Josefinadollfull

Josefina has a special place in my heart because Meet Josefina was the first American Girl book I ever read, and therefore a critical factor in propelling me down the road to a lifetime of queerness.

A lot of Josefina’s stories were about grief – her mom passes away sometime prior to the first book, and she’s still very young and learning how the world works and it’s hard and nobody understands. She copes by exploring nature (gay), protecting her rancho from thieving americanos (gay, and absurdly brave), and by playing matchmaker for her widowed father and orchestrating his second wedding, demonstrating a preternatural understanding of true love and commitment only accessible to the gayest minds. Also, her summer riding outfit is, like, one of the gayest things American Girl has ever produced.

JosefinaSummerRidingDressHat

I mean.

10. Melody Ellison

MelodyDollFullMelody is the third black historical character ever introduced in the American Girl line, and her story revolves around the civil rights movement and the explosion of the Motown sound. I could talk about the invaluable contributions of gay people to the push for civil rights, or about how rock and roll was invented by a black bisexual woman, rendering both of Melody’s principal interests inherently gay. However, the key thing I want to focus on is this snippet from the summary of Melody’s movie:

Early on she and her family faced racial inequality in their hometown, whether being bullied at school by a white student named Donald along with his friends for her ethnicity, or being wrongfully accused of shoplifting at a clothing store where Melody’s mother works.

God damn, American Girl! Pulling zero punches, I see. The American Girl Wiki is not forthcoming about how, exactly, Melody deals with this white student named Donald, but if precedent is anything to go by – see Kit and Rebecca, above – I can only imagine the swift and decisive verbal takedown.

9. Nanea Mitchell

nanea-mitchell-american-girlNanea apparently won’t be released until this fall, but I’m including her anyway , for a couple of reasons. I mean, she’s adorable, and it’s super cool to see American Girl branching into broader representation by creating a Native Hawaiian character. Significantly, too, she comes wearing high-waisted shorts, and I think this is the first time ever that a doll’s intro outfit has included pants rather than a dress or a skirt. That in and of itself is cause for gay celebration, IMO. Here she is playing with a cute pup.

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8. Marie-Grace Gardner and Cecile Rey

Cecile and Marie-Grace Lifestyle-Hi Res

For a while in the mid-2000s, American Girl started selling best friend dolls – a Ruthie for Kit, an Elizabeth for Felicity, etc. But in 2011, they were like, “Hey, wild idea: what if we rolled out best friends at the same time? And marketed them as a pair? One in blue and one in pink? And tied their stories into one another, so you couldn’t have one without the other?” I mean, it was a blatant marketing ploy to sell two $115 dolls at once, but it was undeniably gay, and I’m very grateful.

7. Molly McIntire

In lieu of a description, please accept this slow cascade of Molly’s butchest looks.

Molaviator

MollyAfterSchoolOutfit

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MolCampOutfit

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6. Addy Walker

AddydollfullThe second book in Addy’s series is about Addy starting school after she and her mother escape from slavery, right, and so Addy is making friends for the first time and enjoying her newfound freedom, and the literal first thing she does is get sucked into what’s essentially a love triangle between a rich girl named Harriet and a working-class seamstress’s daughter named Sarah. Harriet is kind of snobby and treats Addy pretty disrespectfully, so naturally, Addy one-ups her at the school spelling bee and then rides off into the sunset with her one true love, Sarah. A subsequent book, however, sees Addy reconciling with Harriet and putting on a puppet show, so really, Addy has two girlfriends, unprecedented in the American Girl canon.

EDIT: A crucial contribution from Tumblr user strewbi, who adds that Addy and Sarah actually got married in canon:

Screen Shot 2017-07-09 at 9.19.41 PM

5. Julie Albright

JulieBFDollFull

She’s from San Francisco in the 70s and her hobbies include leveraging Title IX to play on the boys’ basketball team and mounting an environmentalist campaign to save the endangered golden eagles of the San Francisco area. Like, they weren’t even trying at this point. They were like, “How gay can we possibly make this character?” and then they just went for it. Short of writing a book called, “Julie Joins the Milk Campaign,” they couldn’t possibly have been more direct.

 

4. Kaya’aton’my

KayaBFDollFullWhen I was a kid, the Flash games on the American Girl website were pretty much my sole source of entertainment, and there was this one where you played as Kaya trying to escape on horseback and get back to her family. And there were three levels of difficulty, right, and the highest level of difficulty was to escape with Kaya’s blind adopted sister Speaking Rain. And I played that game over and over and over, and I picked Speaking Rain every time, and now it’s like, okay, Peyton, so your eight-year-old ass was just really preoccupied with saving the pretty girl from mortal peril.

But anyway, like, Kaya spends approximately 99.9% of her time riding around on horseback or training to become a warrior or declaring confidently that she’s going to lead her people one day, not unlike adolescent Diana in the Wonder Woman movie. She’s basically a tiny badass in the very same mold.

3. Samantha Parkington

SamanthadollfullSamantha herself is pretty femme – kind of a counter to the relative butchness of fellow series originators Molly, Kirsten, and Felicity. Her whole entire story is about becoming best friends with this working-class Irish girl named Nellie, teaching her to read, and then liberating her entire family from the poorhouse. She’s also super envious of her scandalously modern suffragette Aunt Cornelia, who wears dusters and drives around in motorcars. She says that she wants to grow up to be a painter “like Mary Cassatt” or the first woman president of the United States. Like, there’s a lot going on here, and all of it points to Samantha and Nellie getting a domestic partnership in their senior years and then living in the countryside with some cats and a nice, spacious garden.

Sam1-6

Also, I’m, like, dying slowly because of this excerpt from the summary of Nellie’s standalone book:

Samantha says she will see Nellie later, and Nellie says she will see Samantha at home.

Samantha skips towards her school and Nellie watches her go.

Samantha has noticed Nellie watching and without turning around, waves goodbye with a very fluttery arm that makes Nellie laugh aloud.

In short, Their In Love.

2. Felicity Merriman

Felicitydollfull1I’m honestly just going to copy and paste the AG Wiki summary of Felicity here, because every word is a resonant confirmation of her lesbianism, and this article took longer to write than I thought it would, and I’m supposed to watch Aliens with Waverly in like, half an hour.

Felicity is a tomboyish, daring, adventurous, spunky, brave, and fiercely independent-minded girl. She is very active for a girl her age in her era and is annoyed at her lack of freedom as a young girl and the ladylike things and personality that is expected of her. Felicity believes in fighting for what she wants and can be quite stubborn and headstrong at times. When she wants something, she goes for it, quite often without thinking about it. She sometimes wavers between brave and foolish and sets her heart on things often. When Felicity is angry, she’s never afraid to speak her mind and stand up to bullies.

She is constantly fussed at for being not very ladylike. For the most part Felicity is a “tomboy” with a love for horses, nature, and the great outdoors. She is quite impatient—especially when it comes to things she finds dull and boring—and is often regarded as “flighty” and “thoughtless” by her mother and often chided for not finishing or tending to her domestic work properly. She shows disinterest for the most part in cooking, sewing, dance, and other then-feminine skills, though she does like working in her garden and playing her guitar. Sewing especially bores her and she is generally sloppy in her work.

1. Kit Kittredge

KitdollfullI truly think Kit Kittredge was the single most decisive factor in me growing up to be a bigender lesbian socialist writer. In many ways, I’m essentially just modeling my life after Kit Kittredge, and I can only hope to embody her tenacious gay spirit in everything I do. I’m going to try to persuade American Girl to let me write a book about Kit as a gay communist journalist working at the height of McCarthyism along with her gay communist girlfriend, Hollywood actress Ruthie Smithens. And if they don’t let me, I’ll just AO3 it. Watch this space.

51 thoughts on “American Girl Dolls Ranked In Order of Gayness

  1. Caralynn says:

    What a great read. Thorough, great prose, convincing arguments, and cute energetic tone. I knew as soon as I saw this that Kit had to be number one and was glad that you were also of the same opinion. I love this article. Thanks for writing!

    Like

  2. Naomi says:

    Oh my god. I’m laughing so hard – this is the best listicle I’ve ever seen. The arguments for Molly and Julie were especially convincing. Very glad to see my girl Kit at her rightful place as number one. Thank you so much for sharing this with the rest of us.

    Like

  3. Liz says:

    Omg, Samantha and Nellie were twu wuv. They def got married, although in 1915 when they would have come of age,they prob just did a secret commitment ceremony and lived as ” best friends.”And the Addy/Sarah/Harriet love triangle is every 80s teen movie you’ve had very seen, only better. The hero has the girl next door bff who loves him (her) secretly while he (she) goes for the flashy, popular hot girl only to discover she is shallow and girl next door is the one for him (her) and was all along. Anyway, I liked Harriet bc even though she was a total snob who was faking friendship with her, I liked the drawings of her since she was pretty and wore in great clothes. Hey, I was only ten myself .
    I loved my AG dolls so much, esp felicity, addy and Samantha. Also had Molly and Kirsten.
    I will dispute felicity at number 2 though. while there were some vibes with the English bff, ultimately I think she was going to end up with the cute apprentice her father was boarding while he trained with him. I was ten when I read those books and they were my first ship, totally got flirty vibes there even at that age. I remember thinking they really had a connection and she just had to grow up age wise since he was around 5 years older. Once again, I was a kid myself thinking that so it’s not weird 🙂

    Like

  4. katia says:

    a) samantha and kit were my lifeblood for a solid two years and i am so grateful to see them at the top of this list . also that picture of felicity riding a horse with her white flowing shirt and her stolen breeches.. my nine year old self felt a connection.

    b) if you ever do write kit fanfic my life will be complete, because the American girl category is disgustingly het. ppl ship Samantha with that kid who sabotaged her ice cream, like… homophobia lives

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Regina says:

    Okay I have to comment because I had only gotten to number 13 and was already ticked off. This is WRONG.

    Kirsten is CLEARLY gayer than 13 out of 15, are you kidding me? You did not even bring up Singing Bird, who with Kirsten was my very first ship- back before I knew what shipping was. They starred in far too many of my daydreams ages 6-9 or so. They could have RUN AWAY TOGETHER. As in, like, ELOPED. They still could later, when Singing Bird’s tribe returned! Kirsten remembered her!! Aah!!!

    I have yet to find a single fic of them actually, though I’ve looked multiple times, so I might be alone in the universe.

    Also, Felicity was probably bi and ended up marrying Ben, but not without having a passionate embrace, or several, with her dearest Elizabeth first.

    Like

  6. Amanda says:

    I’m not going to lie, I actually squeaked when Samantha showed up at #3. She was the first American girl doll I had as a child, and holds a special place in my heart. It’s
    lovely to see people finding positive queer content in things like the American girl dolls.

    Like

  7. hayden says:

    very well argued and convincing list BUT i agree with regina you forgot a crucial piece of evidence about kirsten, that being her obvious gf singing bird. kirsten deserved better! but otherwise this is incredible and amazing and everything i’ve ever wanted. thank u

    Like

  8. Ariella says:

    I had Josefina and Rebecca, and honestly, Rebecca was going to know tons of gay people in the pre-Code film industry. And Kit is as gay as they come. She and Ruthie were going to live in some tiny apartment in a big city working and being in love together.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Lauren says:

    I had Samantha and I lived and breathed Sam/Nellie man, I related to Nellie hardcore and dreamed of a strong and independent Samantha in shining armor to come sweep me off my feet.

    Like

  10. Laur says:

    I agree with all of these. At first i was sceptical- playing with dolls is one of the straightest things I ever did. But I can see now that these doll’s stories clearly shaped my queerness, specifically by allowing me to accept that I have both butch and femme aspects to myself.

    Like

  11. Jo Smiley says:

    Kit/Ruthie is meant to be okay? And btw, if you ever write that McCarthy-era fanfic with them in it, I will read it. I loved American girls as a kid and I am SERIOUSLY SO EXCITED to find that there are people who understand that American girls can be gay. I had a Felicity doll as a kid and identified HARD with her, so it makes me incredibly happy to see her in second place! And I love your description of Molly. It’s perf.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Leah says:

    i had so many american girl dolls, and now i am a super gay. the agenda is clear
    also, please do write the Kit Kittredge thing, she was my grandmother’s favorite.

    Like

  13. steph says:

    Kaya had the hugest crush on Swan Circling! would come to nothing, because Swan Circling was brought up and died in the span of 80 pages, and was also like nine years older
    Swan Circle was also a gay icon in her own right

    Like

  14. catherine says:

    listen felicity riding around on her horse in breeches is the literal reason im gay, also her and elizabeth were totally a thing, also i now have a newfound appreciation for julie as well as addy who i did not realized was such a lesbian ICON

    Like

  15. karistaz says:

    top quality, i know absolutely 0 things about these dolls but this was still a great read and a good insight into american lesbian culture

    Like

  16. anne says:

    My sister had Kit and I had Maya and we’re both gay as fuck now. so glad to see Maya on this list, i dressed her up for special occasions and for some reason New Years was a tradition even after i grew “too old” to play with her. anyway thanks for my life

    Like

  17. liv says:

    i love this article and i’m glad to see the american girls rightfully being acknowledged as gay culture. i remember my girl scout troop went to see the kit kittredge movie in the theater, and all the other girls had dolls but i didn’t because my parents couldn’t afford one, and i was mad because i just felt that i had a better connection to the american girls than all those rich (and straight) girls in my troop and i deserved better than just being “allowed” to hold one girl’s samantha doll for five minutes. now i know why. i also used to make my own newspapers like kit. also molly definitely had a crush on her teacher charlotte campbell, for the record.

    Like

  18. griff630 says:

    I wholeheartedly cannot disagree- who knew that the AG series was what my tiny queer heart needed back in the early years. Although, I did at least have the adorable relationship between Anne Shirley and sweet little Diana Barry in Anne of Green Gables.

    Like

  19. Devon says:

    I love this so hard. I didn’t grow up with the dolls, but now that I’ve read this, I kind of want to make sure my daughters get the full AG treatment.

    Also, number three. “They’re in love.”
    I know, I know. No one loves a know-it-all. But, I’m an editor. And sometimes that means asshole.

    Big love to you. This is amazing.

    Like

  20. Leah Perez says:

    This is fantastic! Thanks for such a great read full of wit and humor. My daughter loves American Girl dolls and this article reminded me of all the reasons I used to love them too when I was a kiddo.

    Like

  21. Julie Albright for President 2021 says:

    Okay but this is genuinely the most amazing article. As a Lesbian Who Was In Love With Kit and Julie(TM) , I feel this on so many levels. Also yes, I did the exact same thing with the American girl doll flash game #solidarity. I love you and now I have to read all the other articles you’ve written

    Like

  22. Amanda says:

    “I’m essentially just modeling my life after Kit Kittredge, and I can only hope to embody her tenacious gay spirit in everything I do.”
    Absolutely dying. This list made my whole day!

    Like

  23. Victoria says:

    OG American Girl doll lover here (i remember when there was only Kirsten, Samantha & Molly) and i must disagree with Molly’s placement on this amazing list. i dunno much about Kit but Molly was DEFINITELY gayer than Felicity and Kirsten. she took to the woods! she tried to go to war! she didn’t want to grow a victory garden because that shit was for girls! Molly definitely made me the queer-bot i am today…

    Like

  24. thirtyandthirty says:

    First I love this. I had Molly growing up and my friends and I would trade all of the books and devour them. But I have to tell you- Felicity was not an original doll. In the beginning, there was Kirsten, Samantha and Molly. I remember when Felicity was revealed. It was a huge deal. I waited weeks for the catalogue when they finally showed her and said what era she was from. Why are all the new books called Be Forever? Is that a new publishing company?

    Like

  25. Professional American Girl Flash Game Player says:

    Me and my (gay) mom are reading this, laughing and nodding in agreement (gay), while sipping tea (which is also gay).

    Like

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