A Pennsylvania toymaker says it will make plastic toy female soldiers after veterans, toy fans, and a 6-year-old girl requested that women also be represented as members of the armed services. The new soldiers will be female counterparts to the traditional plastic army men that children have played with for generations.
BMC Toys owner Jeff Imel manufactures countless plastic soldiers every year at his Scranton factory. He says he's has considered producing female soldiers for years. "To do a new set of figures like this, it's about the cost of a modest new car, you know, so I checked the couch cushions, came up empty," he told CNN affiliate WNEP.
A retired Navy sailor, who happens to be a woman, convinced Imel that there was a market for the female toy soldiers. He developed the design with his sister Tina Imel, an artist who created the concept and submitted sketches of potential models last year on the company’s blog.
After an Arkansas girl asked the question 'why aren't there any green army women?' The company is now making it happen. pic.twitter.com/dUbs2ImGDp— Early Today (@NBC_EarlyToday) September 13, 2019
"Whether it's a dinosaur, or Davy Crockett, or an Army man, maybe having a set of plastic Army women will help some kid somewhere be the hero of their own story at playtime. And I think that's a good thing for everybody," he told WNEP.
In the US Army, there have been female soldiers since the Revolutionary War. Currently, 14 percent of the active-duty Army, 23 percent of the Army Reserve, and 16 percent of the Army National Guard are female.
Imel was finally persuaded last August when he received a letter from Vivian Lord, 6, in which she asked why there were no females toy soldiers. Vivian's mother, Brittany Lord of Little Rock, Arkansas, told CNN last month that her daughter wrote the letter after they went looking for female soldiers and found nothing. "[Please] can you make army girls that look like women," Vivian wrote. "I would play with them every day and my [friends] would to!"
This summer, a 6-year-old girl named Vivian wrote to a toy company out of frustration, asking why they didn’t make female plastic soldiers.— NPR (@NPR) September 11, 2019
The president of the company responded. And now, Green Army Women figurines will be available by Christmas 2020. https://t.co/MxvqfZ3D2L
Imel hired a sculptor to create the first female soldier prototype —a captain holding a handgun and binoculars. He also wants to feature female versions of soldiers on one knee firing a bazooka, standing and pointing a rifle and firing a weapon from a prone position on the ground. He says the collection will meet all the requirements for fun "army play."
Imel told CNN the female plastic troops will be available in time for Christmas next year. Though he hasn’t decided upon a final retail price yet, he expects the set to be under $15. In November, he will launch a crowdfunding campaign, so he can begin taking pre-orders and expand the variety of figures in each set. After he’s completed his female army soldier, he will begin working on creating female troops from other branches of the military.
"Thank you for doing this. It’s made me so happy," Vivian, who can’t wait to play with her new set of female soldiers, told CNN affiliate KARK. "I might just get the boy Army men out of the way and just play with the girls."