Girls picket with their dolls at American Girl Place in Chicago, Nov. 25 [Photo by EJS]
In early October, a concerned mother e-mailed the Pro-Life Action League to notify us about a program recently started by the American Girl doll company. In September, American Girl launched the “I Can” program, which involves taking a pledge to “reach for the stars” and “be a good friend,”along with the purchase of a special “I Can” bracelet for one dollar.
This pro-life mom had discovered that the seemingly innocent self-esteem program has a dark side: seventy cents of each bracelet sold, plus an additional $50,000, would be donated to Girls Incorporated, a group with an anti-family agenda.
The Anti-Family Agenda of Girls Inc.
Excerpts from the Girls Inc. Advocacy Statements make their anti-family agenda clear:
- “Girls Incorporated supports a woman’s freedom of choice, a constitutional right established by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973 in Roe vs. Wade.”
- “[G]irls need and have a right to . . . convenient access to safe, effective methods of contraception.”
- “Girls have a right to positive, supportive environments and linkages to community resources for dealing with issues of sexual orientation.”
Girls Inc.’s list of “Sexuality Resources for Girls” includes books promoting premarital sex, birth control, contraception and abortion. And while Girls Inc. says they promote abstinence, their program for pregnancy prevention depends on providing birth control, and Girls Inc. actively opposed additional funding for abstinence education in the U.S. Senate.
League to Parents: Contact American Girl
Our first step upon verifying this disturbing information about American Girl and Girls Inc. was to contact American Girl. We had hoped they were unaware that they had partnered with an organization whose agenda would be objectionable to many of their customers. However, in a conversation with company spokewoman Julie Parks, League Executive Director Ann Scheidler learned that American Girl was well aware of Girls Inc.’s positions on abortion, lesbianism and sex-ed.
We then issued a press release urging parents, grandparents and other family members to write and call American Girl President Ellen L. Brothers to object to the company’s support for Girls Inc. Our press release coincided with a similar release from the American Family Association, and news media immediately began to take great interest in the story.
American Girl Feels the Heat
Within days of our first press release, American Girl and Girls Inc. began to show signs that our campaign was having an impact. American Girl significantly de-emphasized the “I Can” program on their website, removed all links to the Girls Inc. website, and added a page claiming that their donations to Girls Inc. are “earmarked” for math, science and sports programs.
Seventy cents out of each of these $1 “I Can” bracelet goes to Girls Inc.
For their part, Girls Inc. denied the “earmarking” claim, telling reporters that they assume anyone who contributes to them supports their entire agenda. Girls Inc. also added a page to their website denouncing the “distortions” about their mission from groups pursuing a “narrow political agenda.”
Clearly our phone calls, e-mails and press interviews were having an effect. However, American Girl made plain their commitment to continuing the “I Can” program. We issued a second press release, calling for a boycott to begin November 1 if the company had not severed all ties to Girls Inc. by that date.
American Girl Boycott Begins
Day after day, Ann Scheidler called American Girl trying to speak with company president Brothers, but was never allowed to speak with her. By November 1, Ann had still heard no word from American Girl that they would stop funding the pro-abortion group, and the League announced a national boycott to run through the Christmas shopping season, along with pickets to be held at the American Girl Place retail outlets in Chicago and New York.
“We regret that American Girl has chosen to sully their wholesome image in order to provide financial support for Girls Inc.,” Ann said in a press release. “But since they have chosen to ignore the pleas of pro-life parents and grandparents, we must urge pro-lifers not to purchase American Girl products.”
Within days of announcing the boycott, the League had received over 500 boycott pledges through a special form on our website. The boycott was also joined by many pro-life groups, including Priests for Life, Operation Rescue, Stand True Ministries, Aid for Women and Illinois Right to Life. On November 18, Bath and Body works, which sells some American Girl fashion accessories, quit selling the “I Can” bracelets.
Girls Clubs Hijacked by Radical Feminists
In their public statements in response to our protest, Girls Inc. tried to gain credibility by claiming to have been serving girls for 140 years, originally under the name “Girls Clubs of America.” The truth is rather more troubling.
In the 1980’s, a radical feminist named Margaret Gates took the helm of the Girls Clubs of America. In 1972, a year before Roe v. Wade, Gates co-founded of the Center for Women Policy Studies, a staunchly pro-abortion advocacy and research organization. Gates shifted the focus of the Girls Clubs of America from preparing girls for successful marriages and happy family life to promoting a feminist agenda of radical individualism, abortion, contraception and lesbianism.
Even Girls Inc.’s potentially worthwhile tutoring and scholarship programs reveal their feminist ideology. Girls are encouraged to study math and science and participate in athletics—legitimate goals in themselves—but nowhere in the Girls Inc. literature is there any suggestion that a girl might want to be a wife and mother. Girls are encouraged, however, to consider whether they might have lesbian tendencies.
“Girls for Life” Picket American Girl
On Friday, November 25, the day after Thanksgiving and the legendary busiest shopping day of the year, we made good on our promise to picket American Girl Place in downtown Chicago. Fifty volunteers braved cold winds to hold picket signs and pass out literature detailing American Girl’s financial support of Girls Inc. and the League’s boycott.
The picket line was dominated by girls and young women holding Girls for Life signs. Many also carried their own American Girl dolls, who held miniature Girls for Life signs. These girls provided a powerful witness of what it really means for girls to be “strong, smart and bold”—the Girls Inc. motto.
Many mothers and grandmothers picketed too, with signs reading Moms for Life, as well as fathers and grandfathers with Dads for Life signs. Other League volunteers held signs declaring No Girls Inc./No American Girl and passed out flyers to families entering American Girl Place and other downtown shoppers.
Media, Pro-Aborts, American Girl Respond
During the picket, Ann spoke to reporters from CNN and CBS News, and several camera crews filmed the protest. Ann later appeared live on CNN’s Paula Zahn Show for an interview on the protest of American Girl.
A tiny group of four counter-protestors stood off to the side with NARAL signs, helping to make our point that American Girl is supporting abortion through its financial contributions to Girls Inc. One member of the pro-abortion group was observed entering American Girl Place numerous times and seemed to be on friendly terms with store staff and security.
American Girl issued a statement to the press denouncing our use of “graphic images,” “threatening tactics” and “narrow political agenda.” No graphic pictures were used in the protest, which was entirely peaceful and had nothing whatsoever to do with politics.
“I Can” Program To End in January
As the nationwide campaign against American Girl gained steam, the company announced to the press that the “I Can” program would conclude at the end of the year. They claimed that the program had always been scheduled to end at that time, but nowhere in their original announcement did they make mention of any ending date, nor did the company ever officially contact the League about it. We think it most likely they ushered in a “planned” conclusion to the “I Can” program to save face—and put an end to the protest from conservative parents.
“Strong, Smart and Bold” girls are pro-life, like young Natalie Glitz [Photo by Dan Gura]
That view is bolstered by some inside information the League received. Working late one night at the office, Joe Scheidler received a call from an American Girl employee of fifteen years. She said that the protest was having a big impact, with phone sales—the bulk of the company’s business—down a whopping 18% from 2004. She said that the company had begun to lay off workers in their shipping department. She said that she was part of a group of American Girl employees opposed to the company’s linkage to Girls Inc. and told us to “keep up the pressure.”
No problem—with another picket at American Girl Place in Chicago on December 3 and a one at the New York store on December 10, American Girl will continue to hear the emphatic voices of pro-life parents. We urge pro-lifers to continue calling on American Girl to sever ties with Girls Inc. and never again contribute to a pro-abortion organization. E-mail Ellen Brothers or call 1-800-845-0005.