#RespectYourElders: Pleasant Rowland (born 1941) is an American philanthropist and the creator of American Girl, the company known for its dolls and historical novels for children. She is also known for her work as a news reporter for ABC and for her longstanding dedication to reviving historical locations in New York.
Rowland is a Chicagoland native and got her start in education as a teacher and textbook writer after attending Wells College in New York. From a very young age, Rowland was fascinated by history — a trait that led to American Girl’s staggering success. She sought to bring the joy of history to young girls and after a trip to Colonial Williamsburg to look for a gift for her niece, Rowland decided to make her dream a reality.
With the money she earned from textbook royalties, Rowland launched the Pleasant Group, which later became American Girl. Rowland created a number of dolls, all inspired by different periods of history. A series of books accompanied each doll, telling the story of a young girl’s experience in an era of American history. The company eventually sold to Mattel for $700 million and is still thriving today.
Today, Rowland lives in Madison, Wisconsin and still has a strong presence in New York where she owns a hotel and wedding destination in the small town of Aurora. The hotel is one of the community’s largest employers. She was named among Forbes’ 50 wealthiest self-made American women just 2 years ago.