How a 7-year-old won the battle to make female toy soldiers

How a 7-year-old won the battle to make female toy soldiers
Steve Hartman

It's already the best Christmas ever for 7-year-old Vivian Lord of Little Rock, Arkansas.

But why such glee over plastic toy soldiers? To understand, you have to go back to the summer of 2019.

It was during one of her brother's air raids that Vivian was struck – struck by the fact that her army men were all just that: men.

"I noticed that there was no girl army men. They don't make 'em," Vivian told me last year.

"Were you disappointed when you found out there weren't any?" I asked.

"Very," Vivian said. "I don't know why anybody has not thought of that."

So Vivian wrote a letter that read in part, "Please, can you make army girls that look like women?"

She sent copies to several army men manufacturers, including Jeff Imel, owner of BMC Toys in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Vivian pictured with toy soldiers.  / Credit: Brittany Lord
Vivian pictured with toy soldiers. / Credit: Brittany Lord

"I've never gotten a letter from a child like that before, but every now and then somebody asks, 'Do you have any female toy soldiers?'" he said.

The answer has always been no, although Jeff told me it was on a list of potential future projects. He even had concept drawings.

"They were doing sketches — but they were busy making boy army men," Vivian said.

Vivian just couldn't understand the injustice. And when poor Jeff was faced with those puppy dog eyes, he surrendered.

"I'm going to do it," he told me, adding that Vivian "put it to the top of the list, easily."

Shortly after receiving Vivian's letter, Jeff enlisted the first woman into the vintage plastic military. Today, there are 22 figures in all — and this holiday, they will be taking up positions under Christmas trees across the country.

"And that makes me super happy," Vivian said. "I will play with them every day."

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