MIDDELTON, WI: American Girl, a subsidiary of Mattel, has launched its first major effort in its 20-year history, but a pro-life group is taking some of the credit for the campaign, and the news coverage it?s gotten.
The Chicago-based Pro-Life Action League is claiming the test campaign, "Save Girlhood," which launched in September in Seattle and Atlanta, is an attempt to help American Girl "restore its wholesome image with pro-life families," per Ann Scheidler, the organization's executive director. In the past month, Scheidler's group staged protests outside American Girl's two retail locations in Chicago and New York. The Group was inflamed over the retailer's 4-month partnership with Girls Inc., a nonprofit organization, which, besides promoting academic achievement and leadership skills among girls, supports abortion rights and is tolerant of gay lifestyles.
The "Save Girlhood" campaign urges mothers not to let their daughters grow up too fast, and encourages girls to enjoy their youth. It includes a website, Savegirlhood.com, and print ads running regionally in publications such as Family Circle, Good Housekeeping, Redbook and Parenting.
Julie Parks, director of PR at American Girl, said Scheidler is wrong.
"I can emphatically say this test campaign is not being done in response to the protests," Parks said. "The groundwork for Save Girlhood were put in place last January. We didn't begin working with Girls Inc. until this past August. Our agreement with them was scheduled to run from August to late December."
Scheidler said she's aware the "Save Girlhood" campaign may have begun in September, but said there was never any indication the program with Girls Inc., called "I Can," would end on December 26.
"This 'Save Girlhood' campaign is such an about-face of what Girls Inc. is all about. It would be nearly impossible to convince me this campaign isn't a response to the protests," Scheidler said.
Parks said that "Save Girlhood" and "I Can" are two distinctly different campaigns, "but they're rooted in the same philosophy--help young girls realize their potential."
A statement issued by Girls Inc. regarding the controversy said: "Recently, our mission to help girls develop their self-esteem and self-reliance has become the target of false, inflammatory statements from people who are pursuing a narrow political agenda."
As to whether Pro-Life Action League will stage further protests, Scheidler said the organization would "ride it out and see what happens on December 26."