Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Victorian Love at First Sight

(My first glimpse of the Victorian Era)
As this blog is named "Victorian Swag," I feel as if I cannot escape a post describing my first encounter with the Victorian Era.  Incidentally, this first encounter explains why I fell so deeply in love with every aspect of this time period.  Her name is Samantha Parkington and, as her books describe, she is a "bright victorian beauty who makes a difference."  Some of you will know her as the best American Girl Doll to be had in the 90's; those of you who owned a different doll or no doll at all, well, you know her as the American Girl Doll you wish you had.
 
(Best Outfit EVER)
Let's face it, Samantha had the best outfits, the best books, and she totally lived in the best time period, not to mention the fact that she had the best backstory (Samantha Saves the Day is such a nail-biter!).  Even you Felicity lovers out there (you know who you are) only gave up Samantha because Felicity loved horses (and maybe because she had red hair).  I loved and identified with Samantha for so many reasons.  Mainly, I just wanted her life (minus the being orphaned in a tragic accident part).  She lived in an AWESOME Queen Anne style Victorian house complete with a TOWER, which she used as a classroom in order to teach her poor friend, Nellie O'Malley how to read and write.  She baked gingerbread houses with her beautiful and stylish Aunt-to-be, Cornelia and got to ride around in her handsome Uncle Gard's new automobile.  I must admit that I always had a bit of a crush on Uncle Gard.  He was the perfect Victorian Gentleman but he still had such a sense of adventure!  And let's not forget Samantha's caretaker, her grandmother, whom she calls Grandmary.  While a bit strict, I always thought Grandmary had a lot of spunk.  I'd needlepoint something on a pillow if she asked me to in heartbeat.  Grandmary certainly knew how to run a household (or two).  She had a cook, a maid, a butler, and a housekeeper and things always seemed to run smoothly at Grandmary's house.  I think growing up I just wished I had a tower on my house, really awesome Victorian dresses and hair accessories, a cook to make me petit-fours and fresh-squeezed lemonade for my birthday parties, and a maid to clean up my room for me.  Oh yeah, and a beautiful vacation house on a lake (again, minus the whole parents-drowning thing) and two identical twin cousins named Agnes and Agatha.
(Girl has a green plaid cloak and a muff.  I still want this outfit!)
In all seriousness, what I really love and what I think makes Samantha and all of the American Girl Dolls so important is their ability to teach history.  I loved seeing the Turn-of-the-Century through the eyes of someone my age (Samantha was 9 in 1904).  Everything was new and exciting.  Inventions and innovations were everywhere and America was industrializing rapidly.  But even amongst all of the new-fangled ideas, strong family values prevailed.  She lived at a beautiful time in a beautiful place and, while there was tragedy in her life, she made the best of things and truly cherished her friends and family.  Samantha made me want to be a proper lady who could wear dresses, bake a cake, needlepoint a pillow, but still climb a tree or jump through mud puddles at the end of the day (and I am not going to lie, I really wanted her sailor outfit).  Needless to say I was smitten with all-things-Victorian by the time I had finished reading Meet Samantha and I remain so to this day.  I still have my Samantha doll (and her sailor outfit ahahaha!) and I don't think I could ever give her up, especially now that she has been put into the American Girl Archives and will probably never be seen again!  What a tragedy! 
There is something magical about falling in love with a different time and place as a child.  I treasure Samantha Parkington and what she taught me about Victorian America.  What time period(s) did you fall in love with as a child?  Who was your American Girl of choice?
(Samantha was the BEST!)

3 comments:

  1. My parents gave me Felicity for my 8th birthday and yes, it was a hard choice between her & Samantha), and in the 5th grade, I saved up my money to buy Josephina. Of course, I read all the books of all the girls at the library.

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  2. I'm sure I would have a different appreciation for her now, but Samantha just didn't do it for me as a kid. I read and enjoyed the books, but (no it wasn't *just* the horse thing) Felicity was my favorite and thus the only doll I had. The Revolutionary period immediately sparked my interest and it got me reading all sorts of other books about it. And I just loved Felicity's spunky nature. I STILL WANT TO BE HER, OKAY?!

    Samantha did have some pretty rockin' accessories though (for some reason I can only think about her wicker lunch table or whatever) and I do remember liking her house a lot. But yay for admirable female characters for girls to be reading about and boo for them retiring the best of the best! Makes me feel so old!

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  3. I've never even heard of these dolls before now but I do remember seeing this film - "An American Girl Holiday" - which I totally loved. And they must've got the costume spot on because when I saw those dolls and book covers in the post I immediately thought of that movie. It's such a - a COSY film, if that makes any sense.

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