In 1986, when the doll company American Girl was founded, they released 6 dolls inspired by American history.
As a fellow Scandinavian history enthusiast, I was very surprised when I found out that they had a historical Swedish-American Immigrant doll. Even though I made a post on her on Kidztalk, I want to make a more in-depth article on Kidznet.
Her name is Kirsten Larson, which is probably one of the most basic full names for Swedish-Americans. I am actually glad they didn’t give her an army surname. (Historically, Scandinavian-American Immigrants who wanted to be in the army sometimes had to change their surnames.
Usually, it doesn’t become permanent, but it is up to the person’s choice) Kirsten (and other variants) are also used commonly in books about Scandinavian-American history. (There is Kristina from The Emigrants and Kirstin from Song Of The Pines, so I guess basic named dominate?).
She is supposed to represent the beginning of Scandinavian-American history. In My Opinion, besides the Viking Age, I find Scandinavian-American history the most interesting part of Scandinavian history.
According to the American Girl Wiki, Kirsten was a girl who lived in Sweden in the 1850s but later moved to Minnesota. (I know, so original. It’s not like Minnesota has millions of Scandinavians (Just Kidding, Go for it).
Apparently she goes with her best friend (Spoiler Alert! later dies from Cholera.) They get lost, and they realize that everything is so different from Sweden (I mean…. There were Swedish settlements, so I guess it is like an American Sweden???), and they realize that their move was extremely worth it
Also, I remember back in the 5th grade, my teacher chose a book that we had to read mandatory, and the teacher wanted me to read Kirsten’s book (Meet Kirsten).
I didn’t want to, so the teacher called my mom and then made me read the Novelization of the Live-Action Scooby-Doo Movie. I thought that was a very girly and boring book, and I flashback 2 years later, and I basically enjoy researching Scandinavian culture and history. That was one character arc.
Anyways, If I had to grade American Girl’s attempts at creating a Historical Swedish-American doll (and her books), I would give their representation an 85.
- Minus 5 points for generic first name (Generic Last names don’t count as negative points)
- Minus 5 for the unoriginal story (yeah, it is true that Minnesota has over 1 million Scandinavian people, but again, There are other states with a lot of Scandinavians you can choose. Take North Dakota, Wisconsin, etc.)
In Conclusion, American Girl actually did a great job with the representation. Sadly, in 2010, they took away the Kirsten doll, and it costs over $2,000 now.
However, Kirsten’s doll accessories and books are still available on Amazon. If they kept selling Kirstin dolls, she would be a great introduction to Scandinavian-American history to kids.