The American Girl Empire goes too far with its homeless doll


The wildly popular and outrageously pricey American Girl Store recently released a new doll. Her name is Gwen Thompson and she is
According to her back story, her dad took off on the family,
mom fell on hard times and now she sleeps in her car.

For $95
(not including any accessories), you can purchase her for your daughter
(who is no doubt not homeless otherwise you wouldn’t be able to spend
nearly $100 on a doll).

Doesn’t this seem like a sick joke? How can a place that openly celebrates excess and waste (like paying $25 to learn the secrets of doll hair stylists) seriously claim to be bringing attention to the plight of homeless children in our country?

Rather than devote our resources to making sure that children
don’t have to sleep in cars, we instead create a $95 doll in order to
explain the homeless epidemic to our kids? This is just plain offensive.

American Girl has never been my favorite place. Several years ago,
I went in to buy a baby doll for my daughter’s first birthday and I
have never been back. I guess I can stomach Kit Kittredge and her downright cute resourcefulness in the face of the Depression. I can also see the value in offering dolls that represent different cultures and backgrounds.

But I can’t think of how Gwen Thompson could possibly to do anything
to either help actual homeless children or teach kids about this
serious problem.
According to an ABC News Report, the company said that the doll was
intended to help children tolerate differences and stand up to bullying.
What? I totally don’t get that.

I am waiting now to hear the public response from Mattel, the owner
of American Girl. I hope that they announce that 100 percent of the
proceeds from this ill-conceived doll are going to be donated to
organizations that can actually do something to help homeless children
rather than exploit them for commercial purposes.


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  • How ironic. I know they're interested in telling stories representing all types of girls in America, but I agree with you Caitlin, this is pathetic.

  • Wait so NO profits are donated to homeless charities at this point? That's clear exploitation.

  • When I first saw the headline, my first thought was, "Good." There are homeless kids in our communities and schools (here in the suburbs too). The more we can help our kids see a homeless kid in their school as just another kid in a different and difficult situation, the better. Sure it would be great if American Girl corporate did something with profits or revenues from the sales of these dolls. But that is beside the point. Reading the article and seeing the comments, I can see how this could seem like exploiting the homeless situation. I hope others can see how it also might help teach acceptance and sensitivity.

  • In reply to graunke808:

    "Sure it would be great if American Girl corporate did something with profits or revenues from the sales of these dolls. But that is beside the point." No, actually that IS the point. Mattel exists for absolutely no other reason than to make money. They do not exist to teach children, they exist to sell to children. It's obscene that they would use homelessness as a platform for which they could hawk their wares. Disgusting.

  • In reply to graunke808:

    Just wanted to jump in here for a second. . .
    I absolutely see value in talking to kids about the fact that some children are homeless. And if a doll or other toy helps to do that, then great.

    What gets me is that American Girl is claiming to draw attention to the issue of homelessness with their $95 product and then not sharing any of the proceeds with actual homeless children (or the organizations that work to help them). Hard to take their message seriously in that packaging.

  • In reply to graunke808:

    Apparently the doll doesn't even come with a book detailing her story or teaching children about homeless living. From the American Gril website, excerpted from a review on Gwen:

    "...I was rather disappointed by the lack of items for Gwen though. I expected some outfits and a real book for her. I think she would have been rather interesting to read about and I just don't know."

    So much for teaching kids about homelessness and tolerance.

  • this just justifies why my four daughters will never have an American Girl Doll!

  • Wow, interesting. I see the point they are making with the doll. But as for the books that go along with her, those might actually be useful...I remember I learned so much about the time periods the girls in the books represented and remembered it for a long, long time when I was little. The Addy books helped me understand the horrors of slavery when I was 7 years old, and I could see this topic doing the same.

  • I definitely agree the proceeds should go towards a homelessness program, but I really want to know if the so called background information on this homeless girl is going to talk about how she was probably abused, or soon will be on the streets, and gets trapped into the prostitution and drug use problems so many homeless women end up victims of. I'm sure that's on a profile DVD some place, right?

  • That is really sad, gut wrenching sad. Every one of us needs to pitch in and find shelter, warm clothes, food and whatever we can give to these poor families who have lost everything. I couldn't bear to drive by a family on the street without trying to do SOMETHING to help. We're all gonna end up with tears in our eyes before the rich trash that caused all this misery are done with us. This just adds insult to injury.

  • I had to create an account to comment on what you said here
    Different than us?? What exactly is this difference you speak of, color, wealth, car, what dad or mom do for work?? I could've sworn that we were all humans that sometimes get caught up by our circumstances, reasons or excuses. I for one am glad that we do not have this store in Canada... and the world wonders why America is messed up!

  • Gwen does not have her own books (yet), but she's a main character in Chrissa's books (and movie), where we learn that her father lost his job, then mom lost her job, they lost their house, and dad left. Mom and Gwen live in a car until fall/winter, when they go to a shelter and get the help they need to get back on their feet.

    This story is all too common in this economy. Yes, American Girl should donate part of the profits from this doll to help homelessness. (The company does donate regularly to charities that help children; info in on their website.)

    In the books, Gwen is bullied by the other girls in class (Chrissa's her only friend), which is why the company said the doll/character teaches tolerance and standing up for yourself.

    You also have to realize that most girls read the books without ever owning any of the ridiculously-overpriced dolls. The fact that AG has added a character going through this (again, sadly common) experience is a step in the right direction -- in the books (which are probably available for free in your child's school's library, if not the city's public library), girls get to know about Gwen and find out that homeless people are not all minority crackheads.

    They are raising awareness of homelessness, and nobody is forcing you to buy the doll. On the other hand, since you're not going to spend $95 on the doll, how about taking that $95 and donating it to a local shelter or food bank? Or donating 95 minutes of your time... show Mattel and American Girl how it's done.

  • Perhaps before commenting on this article, you should have disclosed that you apparently work for Mattel. Sure, making people "aware" of a problem--to the extent that anyone needs to be made aware that homelessness is a problem--may have some value. But this is not a public-service announcement. Mattel is exploiting a problem to turn a profit. The company is enriching itself at the expense of the misery of others, casting itself as socially conscious without actually doing anything that is socially conscious. Mattel's approach is disingenuous--and disrespectful.

  • In reply to jfitch:

    Did I miss something? Why do you assume Kop works for Mattel? (I didn't see anything in the profile that said so, but I'm now to this site so I might have missed it.)

  • In reply to jfitch:

    If you really want to make a difference, please leave a comment for American Girl Dolls with your opinion,

  • In reply to jfitch:

    How about if, in addition to donating this doll's sales proceeds, Mattel gives homeless girls the doll? They'd love something pretty and new. If their parents don't have to sell it, that is.

  • In reply to jfitch:

    So whats wrong with facing reality? Homelessness is a major problem today!! People want to hide the fact of just how many kids, woman, and men are on the streets. Dont need to be scared of it, needs to be in the limelight more, so something starts getting done to improve it!!!Hats off to the doll, so go out today and smile at a homeless person!!!!!

  • In reply to jfitch:

    I totally agree with your article. The best thing for Mattel to do is donate 100% of the profit on these dolls to homeless shelters or some type of charity that benefits homeless people.

  • In reply to jfitch:

    Instead of spending $95 on a doll, why not teach our children about giving and tolerance by spending that money--and time-- to donate food, clothing, toys or diapers to those who need them.

  • In reply to jfitch:

    Yeah... I don't get it either..

  • In reply to jfitch:

    I think teaching a child about homelessness though free play with a doll is a great idea, but just grab any old doll out of your kid's toybox.. no need to buy a $95 generic looking doll just because her packaging box is labeled homeless. And while you're at it, maybe your kid will be inclined to clean out their toy box and pick some excess toys to donate to a homeless shelter or other charity. Learning about homelessness should be more about GIVIG a doll, not GETTING a doll.

  • In reply to jfitch:

    I'll post the same thing here as I did on Dad-O-Matic.

    My first reaction too was also WTH? But then in talking a step back, American Girl Dolls always come with a story (hardship, cultural, societal, political, etc.) that is meant to be inspirational for girls. Why should this story be any different?

    Homelessness is, in fact, part of America's history and I think that's what people are really reacting to...not the doll. Or perhaps they are reacting to a perceived notion that Mattel is capitalizing on homelessness in this country and therefore they should give away the proceeds. That logic makes no sense because otherwise they'd have to give a portion of all sales, of all dolls, back to some charity or group somewhere, because their stories all touch on something that could be perceived as somewhat sensitive.

    I applaud Mattel for bringing the subject to light and trying to education children to be sensitive, open-minded and perhaps even friendly next time they bump into another child that is/was in this situation.

  • In reply to jfitch:

    A friend pointed out that American Girl is a supporter of HomeAid, a provider of housing to the homeless:

  • In reply to jfitch:

    I don't care what project they are involved in, this is insensitive and offensive! do they feel they can mock because they give something? how awful. I wonder how the homeless will feel about it. how much of the proceeds go to assisting the ones on the street? a $95 doll for a kid with plenty, do we think the kids will really 'get it'? or will they just demand a more expensive toy next year? hey Mom and Dad, why not take the kids to a shelter and donate the money if you want to wake them up and raise their awareness? it's all b.s, and it's all about the bucks.

  • In reply to jfitch:

    I wonder if any of you have noticed that New York Post columnist Andrea Peyser (who also, about a year and a half ago, attacked a series of anti-smoking ads) recently lambasted the Gwen Thompson character as "political preaching" because it might make children sympathetic to the homeless (as if that were a bad thing)?

    Even if none of the proceeds from doll, book, or DVD sales are ever earmarked for homeless charities (and I agree they should be), just by raising awareness of homelessness, and teaching children to be sympathetic to their plight, the character does far more good than harm.

  • In reply to jfitch:

    It would not accept my photo. To see it see and click under redvioletskydancer

    My point is this: America stop wasting free time and press worrying about a Homeless American Girl Doll, AMERICA WORRY ABOUT AMERICAN HOMELESS GIRLS!

    Two Homeless Babies in The United States of America
    Photo by:
    I was reading recently about this big Hoorah about American Girl coming out with the Homeless American Girl and the big uproar it was creating. In 2007 I nominated my daughter, Anna, for the Real Girl of the Year contest by American Girl. I did so because she is awesome. She inspires in our community and is warm loving and generous.

    I also did because Anna went without for so long to help Homeless Kids in our community, in our United States. American Girl wrote back and said Anna inspired them, and we never heard anything more. Then 2 years pass and a big deal is made over there new Homeless Girl. I hope my nomination of her made them think and consider putting this out. I don't want to scare kids by any means but people need to know about homelessness and it got the conversation started.

    What did Anna do, at 8 years old to end homelessness? She gave her bedroom up for half a year while 2 young women in their 20's slept there, a 3 year old and 8 month old. She bunked with me and a baby in my room. She skipped out on sports and activities she deserved so we would have enough money to pay for an ER visit for a baby, milk and diapers. She got up at 2 am and helped feed them. She took a bath with them, you name it.

    Were they our family? Yes and no. We did not know them from anyone on the street. The problem is they were on the street. They were on the street with no money, no shoes, no food, no diapers, no transportation, falling apart. They came and lived with us. We tried to get them assistance but they were turned down everywhere we applied. The mother was illiterate and FIA would disqualify her for non-cooperation when she frequently didn't understand what they were asking her to do. Every social service agency turned her away because if they helped with rent this month she would be out the next with no income. Homelessness is prevalent in our society with 1/50 kids (source:USA today) currently in a homeless situation. Our society needs to step in and step up and take care of our kids, even if they are not our biological kids. The shelters in our wealthy community have a 4-6 month waiting list, in the meantime it is inexcusable as a community to have any children suffer! We need to look at what we can do everyday to help end homelessness, especially of children in the United States.

    Who cares about a homeless doll America! Care about our real homeless American Girls. The photo is of 2 of the 3 homeless kids that lived with us on our $640/month income.

    Related: suffering, love, homelessness, homeless american girls, homeless american girl doll, homeless american boys, financing our kids, community caring, child poverty, child care

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