Letter: "American' Girl?

‘American’ Girl?

As part of a writing assignment last year, our daughter wrote a letter to American Girl Co. She asked why Americans couldn’t make the dolls in America.

Ms. Miller, Customer Service with American Girl wrote, “the majority of the world’s toys are made in China and we are no exception.” She stated that making safe products was very important to them.

However the real truth should be told. They are not just following sheep; they have found cheaper labor for more profit in China. I still wondered why paying minimum wage to workers here would not be enough profit for them since they charge $100 for one American Girl doll.

We talked about labor laws in this teachable moment. Our past in America, where millions of children for decades, died young, were denied education, worked in unhealthy work places and exploited for employer profits.

We discussed the fact that businesses fought labor laws for decades while exploiting children. They convinced the Supreme Court twice to reject child labor laws. Only after 30 years of fighting and a Lawrence, Mass., fire killing young children, did unions and Franklin Roosevelt push ahead to enact the Fair Labor Standards Act and Labor Laws.

No, we did not receive the perfect letter back from Ms. Miller, but thanks to her we thought more about awareness of work exploitation, labor history and making sure we never buy a $100 doll.



Thanks, Elaine

Everyone who knew Elaine Sortino can testify to her fierce competitive spirit which accounted in part for her extraordinary winning record as a softball coach at UMass.

But Elaine had another generous, playful side that everyone should also know about. In the 1970s and beyond Elaine gave her time to coach (and play with) a team in an informal league of “adult” women softball players, mostly graduate students at UMass and some junior faculty members.

The team I played on was called “Common Woman” and some other teams in the league were named “No Nukes of the North” (Yes!) and “The Hot Flashes.”

Despite Elaine’s tireless efforts to teach us skills that would help us win, our team motto was “Every ball I miss helps another woman.”

Elaine always knew that beyond winning, the sport was about having fun and building community. Perhaps that explains why so many of the players in that “league” went on to lives of great accomplishment — including a number of college professors, as well as Associate Dean of Students at UMass (Eileen Stewart) and Academic Dean at Hampshire College (Susan Tracy).

Perhaps more importantly, many have also remained life-long friends

Thank you, Elaine.


(pitcher—sort of)


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