IVY LING – 1974
Ivy Ling, friend of Julie, was released in 2007 as part of Julie’s collection. (For more about Julie, see “Historical Girls – Part II”.) Ivy enjoys living in San Francisco where her grandparents own a Chinese restaurant, the Happy Panda, and she is a gymnast on the YWCA gymnastics team in Chinatown. No matter how hard she tries, she cannot master the balance beam because of her fear due to a mistake in last year’s tournament. To make matters worse, her team is counting on her in this year’s upcoming tournament. In addition, the Ling family reunion is scheduled to take place on the same Saturday as the big tournament. Ivy doesn’t want to disappoint her family or her team. Finally, Ivy masters her balance beam routine. But, will she even be able to go to the tournament?
Mr. and Mrs. Ling reassure Ivy that it will be okay to attend the tournament instead of going to the family reunion. When the big day comes, Ivy has to battle her nerves, but she performs well and wins trophies for herself, as well as a second place trophy for her team. Ivy decides to skip the team pizza party celebration and go to the Ling family reunion. With courage and tenacity, Ivy overcomes her fear and meets her obligations to both her team and her family.
After a relatively short 7-year run, Ivy was retired in 2014, along with the other friends dolls. Ivy’s collection is arguably the smallest. She has only 2 outfits of her own, besides her Meet Outfit. Because of this, I have collected a number of My American Girl outfits for Ivy, which look great on her. I think she is one of the cutest dolls ever, and I am so glad she is part of my collection.
RUTHIE SMITHENS – 1934
In 2008, Ruthie Smithens, friend of Kit Kittredge was added to the American Girl collection. (For more about Kit, see “Historical Girls – Part II”.) The problem is that people don’t always take her seriously because she loves fairy tales and often quotes them. Ruthie lives during the Great Depression, and while most of her friends are worrying about saving their homes, Ruthie’s family is doing fine. Her father is a banker and her family, therefore, is one of the few that has escaped the hardships of the Depression. This adds to her friends feeling that she doesn’t understand how life is for “real” people.
But, when the chips are down, Ruthie is the one who pulls through for the Kittredge family. Their mortgage payment is due and they simply don’t have enough money to pay it. The result will be the loss of their house and their means of support, taking in boarders. It is December 26 and Ruthie discovers that in only 2 days, the bank plans to take the Kittredges’ house, if they do not make their payment. Kit’s father had hoped to earn the necessary money by January 2, but this will be several days too late.
It is Ruthie who comes up with the idea to borrow the money from Kit’s Aunt Millie. She has a plan to take the train from Cincinnati to Mountain Hollow where Aunt Millie lives and personally ask her for the money. The closest stop is miles away from Aunt Millie’s house, but that doesn’t discourage Ruthie. She is able to get a wagon ride part of the way, but then must walk through snow, icy slush and cold streams to get to Aunt Millie’s. Once Ruthie has explained the reason for her visit, Aunt Millie is more than happy to help. Ruthie gets back to Cincinnati just in time to deposit the money and the Kittredges’ home is saved. Like Samantha, Ruthie’s affluence does not keep her from being kind and compassionate. And her friends come to realize that a belief in fairy tales, can give a person courage to do things that might seem a little far-fetched.
Ruthie had a short 6-year run and was retired in 2014 when the rest of the friends were retired. She has a small collection, only 3 outfits in addition to her Meet Outfit.
REBECCA RUBIN – 1914
Rebecca Rubin was added to the American Girl historical collection in 2009. She is a spirited 10-year-old growing up in an immigrant family in New York City in 1914. Her Jewish faith and heritage are very important to her. She thinks it terribly unfair that her older twin sisters always get to light the candles for the family Sabbath observance, while she never does. If she had her own candles, she would be able to light them. Perhaps by working at Papa’s shoe store she can buy a set of Sabbath candles of her very own.
She works very hard helping her father in his shoe store. And then, she discovers that she can make even more money selling the beautiful linens she crochets that her grandmother and mother are expecting her to put in her trousseau. Now, she can earn the money she needs for the candlesticks even faster. Around the same time, Rebecca learns that her cousin, Ana and her family desperately need to escape the harsh conditions in Russia and come to America. But, they do not have near enough money to make the long voyage. Rebecca wants to buy the candlesticks, but she also wants to help her cousin come to America. She offers her candlestick money to Papa to send to Russia.
At last, enough money is earned and Ana is coming to America. When Ana and her family finally arrive, Ana and Rebecca become best friends and enjoy dressing alike in the twins’ hand-me-down clothes. Rebecca helps Ana adjust to life in America and to learn English.
Rebecca’s other great secret wish is that someday she will be an actress. She is thrilled when her Uncle Max, a real movie actor takes her to the theater where he works. When there is an unexpected need for a child actress, Rebecca jumps at the chance. It is a dream come true. Maybe someday, she really can become an actress, after all.
Rebecca has had a 7-year run, so far, and continues to be a part of the historical girls. Her clothes and accessories are exquisitely beautiful and her collection is sizable. Her Meet Outfit was redesigned as part of the BeForever release in 2014.
MARIE-GRACE ROUSSEAU GARDNER AND CECILE AMELIE REY – 1853
In 2011, two beautiful dolls were added to the historical collection, Marie-Grace Gardner and Cecile Rey. They were uniquely introduced as a friends pair, but could be purchased separately. Their story is set in New Orleans in 1853, the year that yellow fever spread through the city and led to the death of 10,000 people.
Their story is told differently from the other historical girls. Previously, historical girls’ stories were told in a 6-book series according to a pre-set format. Friends’ stories were told in just one book. Marie-Grace and Cecile’s stories are told in 6 books that alternate from one girl to the other. For the most part, the same events are recounted, but from each girl’s point of view.
Marie-Grace’s father is a doctor and they have newly moved to New Orleans from Pennsylvania. Marie-Grace’s family had lived in New Orleans four years prior when her mother and baby brother both died of a cholera epidemic that spread through the city.
Cecile’s family are gens de couleur libres, people of color who are free. Cecile’s grandfather is a stonemason and they are quite prosperous. But, their prosperity doesn’t always protect them as slave catchers are always in search of runaway slaves and will snatch a gens de couleur libres without provocation, unless they have papers on their person, proving their free status.
The two girls meet when Marie-Grace arrives at the Royal Music Hall to take lessons from the famed opera singer, Mademoiselle Oceane. Cecile is already her student. Mademoiselle Oceane invites both girls to the Children’s Opera Ball. They find beautiful costumes among Mademoiselle Oceane’s things and dress identically for the Ball.
Cecile’s family faces the worst crisis of their lives when Cecile’s brother, Armand becomes ill with yellow fever. Cecile is terrified that he won’t pull through. In addition, Mademoiselle Oceane, whom Cecile and Marie-Grace dearly love also comes down with the fever. Dr. Gardner does what he can for both, but their fates are uncertain.
Both girls help out as best they can. Marie-Grace and Cecile volunteer at the orphanage, as the yellow fever has created many parentless children. Cecile helps nurse her brother and housemaid, Ellen who also has come down with the fever. Cecile is broken-hearted when Ellen dies, but very thankful when Armand recovers.
Marie-Grace and Cecile have exquisitely beautiful clothes and accessories. Nonetheless, they had a remarkably short run – only 3 years! They were retired in 2014.
CAROLINE ABBOTT – 1812
In 2012, the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, Caroline Abbott was added to the historical girls collection. Caroline’s life seems carefree and perfect. There is nothing she likes better than sailing on Lake Ontario in vessels made by her father who is a shipbuilder. Her home town Sacketts Harbor sits on its shores. Though she is a girl, Caroline dreams of the day when she can be captain of her own ship.
Then, one day, Caroline’s world is turned upside down when her father is taken prisoner by British solders. Caroline and her mother make a daring voyage across the lake to British territory to deliver a secret message to her father that has been stitched in a sampler Caroline made. It shows which houses along the shoreline would be unfriendly to an escaped American, vital information if Papa is to make it home safely. She prays that Papa understands the message and will find an opportunity to escape.
Months later, it is Caroline who discovers her Papa in his favorite fishing camp. He has managed to escape, but was unable to make it all the way home. Now, he is burning with fever. Caroline spends the night and next day nursing her father. Though Papa is weak, with Caroline’s help, they are both able to make it home. Papa has barely been home when he feels duty-bound to join the militia. Caroline’s father is away from home and in danger once again.
During the long months that her father is away, Caroline’s mother must run the shipyard, which means that Caroline has to take on more responsibility at home. Then, the Abbots receive word that Aunt Martha has had to leave their farm to care for her deathly ill sister. They are asking Caroline to come help her uncle and cousin Lydia take care of the house and cows. Their farm is austere and nowhere near her beloved Lake Ontario, but Caroline does all she can to help.
Caroline’s clothes and accessories are among the most beautiful that American Girl has made. She was retired in 2015, after a short 3-year run.