Pleasant Rowland

Educator, Creator, Entrepreneur, and Philanthropist

Pleasant Rowland followed her heart, and became a millionaire because of it! If you are a girl growing up in the United States, chances are you’ve heard of American Girl dolls, whose sales are second only to Barbie dolls. Pleasant Rowland, who started American Girl, became a millionaire when she sold her company to Mattel for $700 million dollars.

But she started out as a schoolteacher. That was her first career. After that, she was a TV news reporter, and then she returned to education as a textbook writer and publisher. After visiting historic Williamsburg, Virginia, Rowland thought of a new way to get girls interested in history. Her idea was to create dolls that are based on historical periods in time. She created American Girl dolls for different time periods and developed books, clothing, and other accessories to match the doll and the time in history.

After selling her doll empire, Rowland continued to focus on historical projects, this time by contributing money to preserve history. She gave millions to restore a historic inn and other buildings in the town of Aurora, where she went to college.

She even purchased a local business, pottery and homewares manufacturer MacKenzie-Childs, and helped make the company successful so that the historical town of Aurora could thrive. Pleasant also supported the preservation of history and culture closer to home – she donated $133.8 million to support the arts, education and historic preservation in Dane County, where she lives.

Her husband used $205 million from the sale of American Girl to build a performing arts center in their hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. Still, a teacher at heart, Learning, and education is also important to Pleasant – she has contributed millions to a foundation that provides reading programs for schoolchildren.

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