Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Goodbye, Victorian Rose

Dear No One in Particular,

I received wind of some particularly sobering news this morning: American Girl has announced that they are discontinuing the entire line of Samantha dolls. For good. Tears all around.

Samantha was my absolute favourite, but she wasn't my introduction to the American Girl series.* I remember seeing her picture in the catalog and falling in love with her because we shared a hairstyle (I could be a very shallow 8 year old, but at least I liked to read historical fiction). But really, Samantha was the bomb-diggity. She was incredibly rich, with all the best toys -- her party set was THE best thing a girl could have: little painted petit fours, a working ice cream maker, and don't get me started on her fabulous wardrobe! Fur muffs! Velvet dresses! LINED PURSES, YA'LL. I seem to remember a steamer trunk, too, but I can't be quoted on that.

But despite her very My Super Sweet Sixteen-seeming lifestyle, Samantha was the tops as a girlfriend. She was BFF with her maid/"servant girl" Nellie, and somehow, the relationship didn't seem contrived or condescending. Samantha truly saw a kindred spirit in poor illiterate Nellie, and it didn't matter the stations they were born into.

Samantha was witness to a changing world (really, most of the girls were) and her experiences shaped a lot of little (real) girls' view of history and the world around them. Samantha's grandmother was a hard-ass Victorian prude, but her beloved uncle and his glamourous girlfriend were automobile-owning suffragettes! Samantha was privileged, but she was by no means sheltered. I remember reading the historical notes at the back of "Samantha Learns a Lesson" and crying over the pictures of children working in factories. I had no idea how good I had it, and neither had Samantha. Petting her long brown curls, I realised that we had both learned a lesson about the world and it's cruelty.

R.I.P. Samantha Parkington, raddest American girl of them all. (Kit Kitredge is a punk.)


*That would be Felicity, the spunk sprightly colonial girl ... or something to that effect. My grandmother gave me her entire set of books one Christmas and I read them until they fell apart. I blame Felicity for my love of colonial American history.

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