From starting her own company to teaching elementary school to inspiring a reading revolution, Pleasant Rowland's many accomplishments make her a powerful role model for young girls and parents. The founder of the successful American Girl doll company, Rowland's passion for history and connecting girls of the present to girls of the past has affected children since the company's founding in 1985. Literacy activism, creativity and a love for the arts all serve as driving forces behind Rowland's success.
A Lengthy List of Careers
Pleasant Rowland may be best known as the founder of American Girl, but that's not the only occupation you'll find on her resume. As an elementary school teacher with a passion for literature and language arts, she has more than 35 years of experience in the classroom and writing educational materials for companies like Addison-Wesley and McGraw-Hill. She once worked as a news anchor and reporter for a San Francisco television station. Rowland has won numerous awards for her work as an entrepreneur, including being named one of America's top 50 female business owners.
A Persevering Creative Spirit
Rowland's passions for history and empowering young women fused together one afternoon on a vacation to Colonial Williamsburg, when she first got the idea for the American Girl company. She decided to create dolls with a corresponding series of books and accessories that would teach lessons about dignity, family and the things today's girls have in common with girls of the past. Although many people told her the idea wouldn't take off, she was determined to tap into the inquisitive spirits of young women to make it succeed. Her perseverance paid off: Within the company's first five years, it had sold more than $50 million in merchandise.
A Passion for Reading
The American Girl company isn't the only organization Rowland has founded. She believes that one of the greatest challenges for parents and teachers is how to get students excited about reading and has spearheaded efforts to encourage children to embrace literacy. As an elementary school teacher in the late 1970s, she founded a reading program called Superkids that was primarily focused on teaching grammar, spelling and writing. While the program was short-lived, it paved the way for the opening of the Rowland Reading Foundation in 2003. The foundation sponsors research into how the brain processes words and language, then provides curriculum resources for instructors based on the findings.
A Patron of the Arts
In 2000, Rowland retired as president of American Girl, but stepping down didn't end her quest to encourage the arts. As residents of Madison, Wisconsin, she and her husband sponsored the building of Overture Hall, a concert venue for the symphony orchestra. She received the state Governor's Award for her efforts to promote the performing arts. Rowland's love for the arts was inspired by a trip to a children's symphony concert in Chicago when she was a child. Her memory of the beautiful organ and pale blue decor, as well as the chance to spend a special day with her mother, inspired her dedication to giving other children that same opportunity.