Although American Girl Samantha Parkington has been labeled "spoiled" and "proper," this doesn't mean she isn't also a kick-ass heroine. She was a status symbol doll before she was retired, but often it was because of her beauty and not her story. Sure, when compared to Addy's heartbreaking experience with slavery, Molly's family's struggle during the Great Depression, Kirsten's best friend dying of cholera, and Felicity being caught in the middle of the Revolutionary War, Samantha doesn't quite have hardships or sob stories to match. Mostly, the terrible things happen to her friend Nellie.
In comparison, being born into privilege during the Edwardian period (though marketed via the company as the Victorian era) in New York doesn't seem like that much of a struggle. But still, Samantha is way more than a pretty little rich girl. And with her rumored re-introduction out of the American Girl archives and back into stores this fall, I offer six reasons Samantha and her stories were totally awesome.
1. She didn't want to live in her rich little bubble
You can't blame Samantha for how she was born. But after her parents died in a boating accident, she mustered all her strength and moved forward to live with her Grandmary in Meet Samantha. But at every turn, she learned that there was a life outside of the huge mansion, and as she became attuned to it, she pushed back on the way her Grandmary and others in the wealthy circle thought about things. She was curious, and she had ambition.
2. She valued education
Samantha knew how good she had it with her educational opportunities, and so she worked hard to learn everything she could and be the best in her class. And when Nellie, the servant girl-turned-best friend was struggling in school and getting bullied, Samantha jumped at the opportunity to help her succeed by giving her private tutoring lessons and teaching her how to read.
3. The girl had crazy, sophisticated style
For example, this is what she wears to school:
I would legitimately wear this outfit tomorrow. On her birthday, she killed this flower crown ensemble:
And for next winter, I'm saving up to get myself a matching Samantha outfit exactly like this, muff and hat included:
Finally, I think every woman in 2014 is wearing this hat at the beach this summer. Samantha is such a trendsetter:
4. She's a budding feminist
Little 9-year-old Samantha was asking some pretty important questions for her day and age. And since her stories centered around 1904, it's likely that she grew up to me a mainstay suffragette.
When she wanted a fancy new doll (one that looked like and reminded her of her late mother), she didn't expect it to be given to her. She asked her Grandmary if she could work for the money to buy it herself. Grandmary, who can't be blamed as she was a product of her own time, said no, that women didn't work, men did. But Samantha didn't let it stop there. She became inspired by her uncle's girlfriend, Cornelia, and her pro-women's rights causes, believing that she didn't have to rely on a man to live the life she wanted.
5. She has a sense of adventure
In Samantha Saves the Day, Sam and her twin cousins, Agnes and Agatha (yes, unfortunately), find a sketchbook filled with her late mother's paintings. In the pages is a waterfall she had once visited with her parents before they died. With the sketchbook, the three took off on a boating adventure, despite the fact that her parents died in a boat and a storm was coming, to find the waterfall and feel close again to her family.
Back in Meet Samantha, when Nellie and Samantha find out that Jessie the seamstress is leaving, no one tells them why, so the two friends plan a secret midnight escape to find out what's going on.
She may be prim and proper, but Samantha has spirit.
6. She's a loyal and true friend
Besides giving Nellie reading lessons, when Samantha goes to New York City in Changes for Samantha, she leaves her treasured possession, her mom-reminiscent doll Lydia, with Nellie so she'll have company. And when Nellie is sent away, Samantha risks everything to take off and find her and her sisters. When it turns out they are in a scary orphanage, Samantha helps plan their escape to safety. She's willing to risk everything for the people she loves, no matter their class, as she grew up learning.
If You Loved the Samantha Books, Try Reading...
1. A Time for Courage (A Dear America book) by Kathryn Lasky
This now-defunct historical fiction series has so many incredible feminist moments that 20-year-old Samantha would be proud. One in particular about women's suffrage is A Time For Courage by Kathryn Lasky.
2. A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
Set in 1906, around the same time as Samantha, this YA historical fiction novel focused on the real life death of Grace Brown, the story that sparked Theodore Dreiser's classic An American Tragedy. And like Samantha, the fictional protagonist Mattie believes in working hard and getting a good education.
3. The Luxe by Anna Godbersen
Talk about pretty dresses. The Luxe tells the story of elite Manhattan girls Elizabeth and Diana at the turn of the century in 1899. Though they live the upper-class life, it can't last forever, they'll soon learn.