American Girl Dolls Had Some Really Messed Up Backstories

Voting Rules
Vote up the darkest things about this beloved children's property.

If you're a kid of the '90s, you remember American Girl dolls. You probably associated the dolls – each from a different period of US history – and their accompanying books with horses, frolicking, and tales of best friendship. They're fun, easy-to-read stories about plucky young girls learning life lessons and wearing old-timey dresses. What possible hardships could a range of '90s toys aimed at young girls have faced? As it turns out, a ton.

Take another read of those cute little books, and you'll notice so many disturbing things about American girl dolls. Messed up American Girl doll stories include such horrifying details as slavery, kidnapping, child labor, frozen corpses, attempted horse murder, cholera, and poverty. Not to mention the existential terror brought about by war. Kids love that stuff!

When we say we're talking the darkest stories from American Girls, we mean daaaark. It's a miracle an entire generation wasn't traumatized. Let's revisit some of the more horrifying story elements that, while historically accurate, are kind of a heavy read.  

  • 1
    304 VOTES

    Addy Has To Escape Slavery

    Addy's backstory may take the cake for being the most horrifying. One word: slavery. At the beginning of Meet Addy, she and her family are about to escape enslavement. But just as you think they're all going to get out together, her brother and father are sold off to another slave owner. Holy sh*t!

    On top of that, Addy gets whipped, is forced to eat live worms, and has to leave her baby sister behind after she escapes with her mother. It's a grim look at the reality of slavery; just because the story is for kids doesn't mean it gets sugarcoated.

    304 votes
  • 2
    224 VOTES

    Kaya Gets Kidnapped

    Kaya is an 18th century Nez Perce Native American, and her backstory features child abuse, people nearly dying in rivers, and multiple kidnappings. In Meet Kaya, she's publicly whipped by a whipping elder whose job it is to, well, whip people. She also has to save her sister, Speaking Rain – who lost her sight to an illness of some kind – from a river.

    In Kaya's Escape, Kaya and Speaking Rain are kidnapped by raiders and taken away on horseback, before being enslaved by said raiders. She manages to escape, but it's pretty rough going for a while there. As for Speaking Rain, she remains missing for several books. She does come back... eventually.  

    224 votes
  • 3
    199 VOTES

    Kirsten Stumbles On A Frozen Corpse

    It doesn't get much more horrifying than a child being confronted with a frozen reminder of a human's mortality. Kirsten sees some serious stuff in the 19th century wilderness – including the iced-over corpse of a fur trapper. In Changes for Kirsten, Kirsten and her brother end up in a trapper's house and find his icy dead body.

    199 votes
  • 4
    228 VOTES

    Kirsten's Best Friend Dies Of Cholera

    Kirsten's story might seem dull on paper: she's a 19th century immigrant and a pioneer, trekking around with her Swedish family. Doesn't sound like a thrill a minute. But hold up – Kirsten's story gets real dark real quick when her friend Marta dies of cholera on the crossing to America. On top of that, Kirsten only discovers she's died when she stumbles across her coffin on deck.

    228 votes
  • 5
    171 VOTES

    Nanea Is At Pearl Harbor When It's Bombed

    Hawaiian American Girl Nanea is based off the experiences of real life "child of war" Dorinda Makanaonalani Nicholson, who experienced the attacks on Pearl Harbor when she was just six years old. She was brought on as a consultant to ensure the utmost authenticity in the doll's backstory.

    Here's how Makanaonalani Nicholson describes her childhood experience of the devastating bombings:  

    "I carried a gas mask everywhere I went and I could not be outside after dark... We had to carry IDs on us at all times and the money was called 'wartime currency.' America was bombed for two hours – and this was all a part of recent American history." 

    It's important for kids to learn about the past, but that doesn't make it any less nightmare inducing.

    171 votes
  • 6
    161 VOTES

    Melody Faces Racial Discrimination

    As an African-American girl trying to live her dream of being a singer in the Civil Rights-era, Melody and her family face a ton of discrimination. In the 2016 film based on the doll, An American Girl Story - Melody 1963: Love Has to Win, Melody is bullied by a bunch of awful white students purely on the basis of her race. On top of that, Melody hears about the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, causing her to fear for her and her family's safety, as she thinks a similar attack will happen on her own church.

    161 votes