In each of the books, there is a little section at the end that gives a little history lesson on the time period. At the end of Happy Birthday, Molly!, we read about changes in birthing practices in the 1940s and the popularization of hospital births where infants were separated from their mothers and kept in a separate room where they were fed formula. Both of us thought that just seemed like a bad idea. "Whoever thought that would be a good thing?" I asked Maia.
"Why would they separate moms and babies?" she asked.
"Probably something to do with Enlightenment philosophy," I answered.
"What's that?" Maia asked with a puzzled expression on her face.
"Umm..." I paused. I had kind of said it without thinking. "You know, prizing the individual, as though persons somehow start off on their own, disconnected from family."
"Oh," she smiled.
"Well, you and I both know that people generally start off connected to people; they are born into a family, not as disconnected individuals. It would take an adult male to come up with that stuff, as it is completely different than the experience of a five year old girl." Maia looked like she might understand what I was saying, even if she didn't know anything about Enlightenment philosophy.
One thing I like about the American Girl books is the way they really emphasize family and social structures. Josefina, a Spanish (and Catholic) girl in New Mexico, is a particularly good model of this. Now if we can just avoid the "doll" issue...