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Girls of Many Lands Logo.

Girls of Many Lands is a historical character line of eight books and corresponding display dolls that covered various historical periods in countries around the world. The line was available from 2002 to 2005.

The line was aimed towards an older demographic with a suggested minimal age of ten years old; it was often shown in catalogs next to the American Girl Minis line as they were targeted toward the same older audience. The characters' ages reflected this older audience; unlike the nine to ten-year-old historical and Girl of the Year characters, the Girls of Many Lands were an average of twelve years old.

Characters and Book Titles[]


Each character has a single chapter book that is more complex both in length and topic than Historical Characters' central series. The character books have more detailed plots and no internal illustrations (which was later done in the Central Series as volumes during the BeForever rebranding). Stories are written in first person[1] and go into more complex topics than the Historical Characters, including controversies such as civil or political discord, war, enslavement, colonization, and disease and death.

The title format includes the girl's first name and a poetic subtitle evoking a descriptive image of the era and an event or image in the book (e.g. Cécile: Gates of Gold refers to both the lavish lives of the pre-Revolutionary French nobility and the literal golden-overlaid gates of the Versailles Palace). The country or location and year are also included, though the year is not displayed on the cover.

The cover shows a close up on the girl's face from the artwork, Girls of Many Lands in gold script, the country setting (or culture in the case of Minuk), the character name in cursive script, and the subtitle in cap letters. The inner flap gives a descriptive blurb of the story; the back cover has a quote from the story imposed over a faded image that is shown internally.

The half title shows the title and the main character's name in her native language writing system where available. Saba's name is written in Amharic, Leyla's in Arabic, Neela's in Bengali, and Spring Pearl's in Cantonese; Spring Pearl's name also includes her family name--Chou--traditionally written before her given name as Chou Spring Pearl. The following characters are written in English only: Minuk (Central Alaskan Yup'ik language was not in a written form until approximately 1900 with the creation of the Yugtun script), Kathleen (her Gaelic name, Caitlín, had likely been Anglicized for some time), Cécile (French is a Latin-based letter language), and Isabel.

Behind the half title is a full color splash painting of the main character, placed in a background scene related to the book's setting; the cover image is a close-up of this image.

Each character is given a decorative "ribbon"-style motif connected to their culture in black and white that borders the top of the first page of each new chapter. Similar versions of the ribbon motif can oftentimes be found on each dolls' clothing. The books use many words from the language of the main character. A glossary is provided in the back that lists unique words and locations, their approximate pronunciations, and definitions.[2]

Like the Historical Central series, each book ends with a look back at the time period, called Then and Now: A Girl's Life. It discusses the social aspects of the era for girls approximately of the class and culture of the main character, and how the culture and times have moved forward to modern girls in the area. (At the top of the page, the ribbon border is shown in color.) The back flap has a removable bookmark of the character on a perforated edge and the author's mini-biography.

Books were both available with the dolls when packaged and individually for $7.95.



Cécile in packaging box with her book, Cécile: Gates of Gold.

The dolls of the characters, approximately nine inches tall, are intended for display only and were designed by doll designer Helen Kish. Each doll is made of full vinyl with jointed head, shoulders, and hips and painted eyes and features; hair is wigged. Helen Kish's identifying signature is on the sole of the left foot. There are two specific hand styles: curled under fingers and flatter, pointed fingers.

Outfits and Wrist Tag[]


Wrist tag as seen on Saba.

Dolls come dressed in a single elaborate, detailed outfit designed to fully resemble what the character is wearing on the internal pages and cover of her respective book. The outfit is generally of an ornate style as opposed to casual wear (the exception being Minuk, whose outfit was standard wear for her culture). The outfit generally has deep significance to the character during the events of the book (e.g. Neela's sari was a symbol of her impeding maturity as worn to her sister's wedding; Cécile's fancy dress showed the expectations for dress at the French Court and were given to her at arrival). There were no extra clothes for any characters; while some clothes have snaps for adjustment or ease of display, many items were sewn or tacked into place and thus the outfit can be considered non-removable.

Each doll came with a blue and gold circular wrist tag with her name, country, and year, placed around the left wrist.[3]

Packaging and Stands[]


Doll Stand.

The dolls came packaged in a trunk-shaped cardboard box. One side held the book in a slide out base. The other side had a clear plastic window; inside the doll was attached to the slide out cardboard packaging with metal twists, clear bands, plastic, and/or sewn thread for security and display, with tape on the back to hold the thread in place. Due to the thicker back spreads of Cécile's and Isabel's dresses from bustling, they were additionally backed with small cardboard boxes behind them to help prevent crushing the back of the dress.

Included was a doll stand; a white circular base with the line's logo and clear leg braces that snap around the lower leg and calves. This came stored on the back in two separate pieces that, once snapped together, are not easily separated. Smaller accessories were either packaged with the stand or attached to the doll's hand.


Prices were initially in the $48-54 range, depending on outfit complexity for the character. They were later lowered by 50% before the line was discontinued. [4] By mid-2003, a discount was available for multiple dolls- 10% off one doll, 20% off for two dolls, and 30% offfor three or more dolls.

Original retail costs are as follows:

  • Isabel: $54
  • Cécile: $52
  • Leyla: $54
  • Saba: $48
  • Spring Pearl: $50
  • Minuk: $48
  • Kathleen: $50
  • Neela: $50

Additional Components[]

There were no extra outfits or personal accessories sold separately for any of the characters. Other display accessories in the line include:

  • Display Case: White wooden mirrored display case. Clear acrylic sides and mirror back with magnetic front. The case was designed to hold one doll. Retail cost was $38.
  • Display Shelf: White wooden display shelf with purple velvet lined storage drawer and logo at front. The shelf could hold up to five dolls and be wall mounted or set on a table with spaces between for books if disconnected. Retail cost was $58.
  • Display Risers: Additional risers were released in 2003 for $18. These connected to the sides of the shelf. The risers combined with the shelf offered display space for nine dolls (though the line only had eight released characters).

History of the Line[]

The line was launched for Holiday 2002 with the release of Isabel, Cécile, Minuk, Spring Pearl, and Neela. This included their books, the display case, the display stand, and risers. The dolls were initially intended to each have different face molds, but Minuk's proposed smiling face mold was deemed inappropriate for the character so she was created with Spring Pearl's mold. The line was marketed towards an older collector and for display rather than for play.

In 2003, Saba, Leyla, and Kathleen were released along with their books. That same year, American Girl Minis were discontinued, leaving Girls of Many Lands the only line in the catalog targeting older children. By 2004, purchase prices had been lowered by 50% on the dolls, with lower prices on some display components.

The Girls of Many Lands line was formally retired in 2005. Theories for discontinuing mostly lean towards the collection being unpopular or a financial loss; the initial high costs of dolls may have been a deterrent, as well as the forming societal idea that dolls, even of display quality, were considered immature for preteen and young teen girls.

Currently there is no line that American Girl offers for older children, though some books are targeted towards an older demographic and characters have been released in the tween or teen age range. The revamping of the books in the BeForever and Girls of the Year lines from 2014 to 2019 (including the combination of the smaller books into larger volumes and removing internal illustrations) was considered an attempt to shift the stories to appeal to an older audience; illustrations were restored in 2019 along with the stories being abbreviated.

See Also[]

  • American Girl Minis, another discontinued line aimed at an older demographic
  • History Mysteries, a mystery series that focused on (at the time) periods in American history not covered by the Historical Characters


  1. Neela's story is written in third person.
  2. Isabel: Taking Wing (because Isabel speaks English) and Spring Pearl: The Last Flower (because Spring Pearl's book is written entirely in English without any Cantonese or Chinese words referenced) are the only books not provided with a glossary.
  3. Minuk's wrist tag was looped over her mitten.
  4. Original retail prices were pulled up from the Wayback Machine.