American girlhood

When I was a little girl, we alternated between taking family vacations to Disneyworld and Colonial Williamsburg. And I have to say I had an equally good time in each place. 

My sister and I modeling our fabulous mob caps in Colonial Williamsburg.

A lot of my love for Colonial Williamsburg came from the fact that I had a friend there. Her name was Felicity and she had the bright red hair I always wanted (but, being half-Chinese-American, was never going to have).

An American Girl book on
Jenny's bookshelf.

I’m dating myself here, but she was the newest doll in the American Girl series when I was growing up. I loved her intricate clothing, her adventures, her patriotism. I loved that her American girlhood was in some ways similar to mine, including celebrating birthdays, Christmas, or going to school.

American Girl books completely captivated my imagination when I was little, but then in my “too cool” teen years, I moved from 100-page historical fiction to 300-page Advanced Placement textbooks. So when I was packing up boxes of books to give to charity, I packed my American Girls books up, too. Luckily, my mom saw them in the box and told me “Those books were very special to you; you might want to keep them.”

For a while, it didn’t matter that I kept them, they just gathered dust on my old tweenage bookshelf. But now, being surrounded by coworkers who love history as much as I do and recently being able to justify a trip to an American Girl store as “work-related research,” I realize that my mom was really wise. So in a recent trip home, I packed up the American Girl books again, but this time I brought them to my new home outside of D.C. And I’m looking forward to sharing them with my niece who has already started reading her own American Girl books.

Are you another woman who fell in love with American Girl in the 1990’s? Did one of the characters really catch your imagination like Felicity caught mine?

Jenny Wei is an education specialist at the National Museum of American History who really loves reading.