David Curran, San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday, December 23, 2007
David Curran, editor at SFGate.com, ponders in print his idea to create a Christmas Gift for his 8-year old daughter (who loves American Girl dolls) the Un-American Girl Doll:
On the other hand, the historic San Francisco doll I'm planning to create was a lifelong radical. She grew up in North Beach, and came of age during the labor tumult of the mid-21st century. She was a union leader and a member of the Communist Party who was then called before the House Un-American Activities Commission in San Francisco in 1957. In case you hadn't guessed, she is based on someone I know: My great aunt Angela Ward.
Really, the only argument I have with his column is this:
This sounds like so much fun, I'm almost convinced she'll go along with it. But before I can find out, I'll have to do the most truly un-American thing of all: Sit down and make the thing myself.
Un-American thing of all? Mr. Curran lives in a bubble, or a shopping world, if he is unaware of how many millions of Americans still make things on their own. (Has he never heard of HGTV?)
To play it safe, in his newfound roots, I'd perhaps suggest he take those babysteps by starting in the arena of "scrapbooking". Perhaps from there he could move to quilting.
My first dolls were made by my female ancestors and friends and relatives. But maybe Mr. Curran thinks this is only a plebe-world activity. And yes, I have yet, fully intact, carefully tended all these years the first "non-hand-made" doll my mother, a Canadian depression-era child, received when she was a child from loving family relatives who pooled their monies to get her this gift -- a Glass-head doll made in Germany. This doll was my mother's only "gold" for many years. And it was treated and cared for as such.
My mother understood that as long as she and my grandmother and greatgrandmother never had to sell that doll in order to put food on the table, then they were doing allright, no matter how poor they were.
My mother would would often refer to my brothers and I as her most precious jewels of all. Which gave me great scope and understanding of the family stories surrounding the Glass-head doll she bequeathed me.
Should Mr. Curran wish to make an Un-American Doll, I've no problems with that. Every doll has a story to tell, and everyone who has ever loved a dolly has a story to tell about the dolls in their own lives.
My Aunt made me a doll I'll never forget, ever. It had two faces. One face was smiling, flip her over, and the face on the other side was sad. In this day and age, no doubts some overeducated flunkie will tell me my Aunt was telling me the story about the oppression of women; or encouraging bi-polarity in me. Nonsense.
My Aunt was encouraging me to understand we each have choices to make as to how we choose to live our lives. And how we choose to respond to others in our lives.
At different times throughout my life, I've seen that dolly flash inside my brain.
And such is the legacy of dolls.
Some bewail Barbies, now. I'll have y'all know, I created some of my best personal fashion designs based upon my childhood Barbie's clothing and wardrobe, and my brothers' G.I. Joes!
We had the best times with our dollies. But nothing could match the real-time dramas and childful play my brothers and I and our friends could have and invent using nothing but what was around us. We made our own skateboards before skateboards hit the markets. (Of course, same brother and I suffered massive injuries from our experiments. And revamped our model and did it again! Over and over, until we'd gotten it "more" right.)
So, Mr. Curran wishes to create an Un-American doll for his daughter. Instead of writing about it, he should do exactly this. He'll rediscover what joy and newer worlds exist along his way.
And exactly what the makers of the American Girl discovered, and how they ended up such a large corporation. What he will discover is that the free market in America is NOT evil nor wicked, nor does it "not make on its own". It does. It always has.