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Education Reporter

American Girl Boycott
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The "I CAN" campaign initiated by American Girl in Sept. 2005, ended with more than $200,000 donated to Girls Inc. amid protests, pickets, and a boycott of American Girl Inc. products in Dec. 2005.

American Girl, first established as Pleasant Company in 1985 by Pleasant T. Rowland, is now a subsidiary of Mattel Inc., and features an array of products, apparel, and activities for girls.

The company began by providing 18-inch dolls that were representative of 9-year-old girls from different periods in American history, each with a unique, historically accurate story. The dolls filled a market niche: many families welcomed them as symbolizing traditional, wholesome values, and evoking imagination, ingenuity, courage, conviction, hope and determination among girls.

American Girl has grown through the years, with retail and entertainment sites: an American Girl Place along Chicago's Magnificent Mile, and American Girl Place on Fifth Avenue in New York. These stores have theaters featuring plays by Broadway playwrights, inspired by American Girl characters. More than 10 million people have visited the two sites.

Many American Girl consumers were dismayed when the corporation announced support of Girls Inc. (formerly Girls Clubs of America) by launching the "I CAN" program, selling $1 bands with a star and the words "I CAN" and pledging a $50,000 donation as well as 70 cents for each band sold to go to Girls Inc.

Controversy erupted over the Girls Bill of Rights, accompanying "advocacy statements," and other publications from Girls Inc. that support "convenient access to safe effective methods of contraception," "a woman's freedom of choice," "reproductive freedom," and "resources for gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth." The National Resource Center (NRC), established in 1981 in Indianapolis, Indiana provides research, publications, and training for Girls Inc. programs.

Complaints to American Girl brought no change, so the Pro-Life Action League organized a boycott Nov. 1, 2005, citing a betrayal of trust. American Family Association and many other organizations joined. St. Luke Parish in Brookfield, Wisconsin cancelled an American Girl fashion show fundraiser.

Parents were urged to buy from competitors, such as Mission City Press, with the theme "Ordinary Girls-extraordinary faith," or "The Beautiful Girlhood Collection" from Vision Forum. Both companies feature dolls, books, and accessories. Mission City Press issued a statement: "We teach an "I Can" message of our own: 'I can do everything through Him who gives me strength,' Philippians 4:13." BLESSINGS dolls, made in St. Joseph, Missouri were also suggested.

American Girl issued a press release announcing the end of the "I CAN" campaign in December, but stating: "The 'I CAN' promise, which is the foundation of the 2005 cause-related campaign, will remain on American Girl's Web site . . . so girls can continue to sign the promise . . ." But a visit to the url brings a statement: "The page you requested cannot be found."

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