“Historically Hers: Revisiting American Girl Doll Stories through the AAS Collections”

Thursday, June 17, 2021, at 4 PM ET

Approx. 75 minutes


Registration is required for this online program. Admission is $15. An email with a link and instructions on how to join the event will be sent upon registration. This program will be recorded.

Digitized versions of collection material examined during the workshop and other resources will be shared after the event. Opportunities for direct interaction between presenters and participants will occur throughout the program.

For thirty-five years, American Girl dolls have attempted to encourage girls to embrace their strength, be themselves, and engage with American history, while also, of course, providing countless hours of entertainment. For many girls—including some AAS staff members!—the historical worlds of the dolls have inspired a lifelong love of history, sometimes even a career path. But what is the real history behind these fictional characters? By examining original items from the AAS collections, this virtual event will combine a childhood love for dolls with the insights of historians to explore the mid-nineteenth-century worlds of two of the original dolls: Kirsten Larson (Minnesota, 1854) and Addy Walker (Philadelphia, 1864). Textile and costume historian Lynne Zacek Bassett and AAS staff will share photographs, maps, women’s magazines, children’s books and toys, newspapers, and more to give participants a sense of the “real stuff” that inspired these enduring characters.

All ages are welcome, and we encourage you to bring your doll along if you have one! In honor of the 35th anniversary of the first American Girl dolls, the first six dolls have just been re-released, including Kirsten and Addy.

Lynne Zacek Bassett is an independent scholar specializing in New England's historic costume and textiles. The former curator of textiles and fine arts at Old Sturbridge Village and former curator of collections at Historic Northampton, she has worked as an independent curator for a wide range of museums since 2001. Her award-winning exhibitions, lectures, and publications on textile topics range from the seventeenth century to the present day. Her book publications include Homefront & Battlefield: Quilts & Context in the Civil War (with Madelyn Shaw, 2012), Massachusetts Quilts: Our Common Wealth (2009), and Textiles for Clothing of the Early Republic, 1800-1850: A Workbook of Swatches and Information (2001). Her contribution to the field of historic costume and textiles has been recognized by the American Antiquarian Society (member, 2010), the Massachusetts Historical Society, Historic New England, and the International Quilt Study Center, which have all elected her to membership in their honorary or advisory societies.

If you want a refresher on the American Girl stories, check out the American Girls podcast, hosted by historians Allison Horrocks and Mary Mahoney. In each episode, they take a deep dive into American Girl fandom and a book from the series. You can also watch an AAS program they co-hosted with Allison Lange, "Picture It: The Women's Suffrage Movement."

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