Her Own Toy Story: How A 6-Year-Old Girl's Letter Launched 'Plastic Army Women' A handwritten letter to BMC Toys sent by a 6-year-old girl from Arkansas wondering where the female toy solders are prompted soul-searching and eventually a new contingent of Plastic Army Women.

Her Own Toy Story: How A 6-Year-Old Girl's Letter Launched 'Plastic Army Women'

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Green army men - you know, those little plastic figurines that have been a mainstay in American toy boxes for generations. Well, a 6-year-old girl in Arkansas saw a problem. The army men were all - well, they were all men. So she recently wrote to some of the companies that make the tiny soldiers. As NPR's Bobby Allyn reports, the girl's words helped launch a new brigade - plastic army women.

BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: Vivian Lord of Little Rock was playing with her brother's toys when she realized none of them looked like her. So she got out of pen and paper and wrote letters.

VIVIAN LORD: My name is Vivian. I play soccer. I'm 6 years old. Why do you not make girl army men?

ALLYN: On the receiving end of one of the notes was Jeff Imel. He runs BMC Toys in Scranton, Pa. It makes little green army men.

JEFF IMEL: Every now and then someone would ask me if I had female figures.

ALLYN: In fact, before Vivian's letter, another message arrived in the mail.

IMEL: I received a pretty stern and compelling letter from a retired Navy sailor.

ALLYN: It was from retired Fleet Master Chief JoAnn Ortloff. She says she was concerned about how women in the military are represented, even in toy form.

JOANN ORTLOFF: We're often asked for our husband's IDs, and we're not often recognized as being the active duty member.

ALLYN: She says the tiny green troops should reflect the fact that women now serve in combat roles in every military branch.

ORTLOFF: It's time that we have some equal representation in our toy soldiers to pass down.

ALLYN: Ortloff's letter got Imel thinking, but support for the idea really poured in after Vivian's letter drew headlines across the country. This week, Imel announced that plastic army women will hit store shelves by Christmas 2020.

IMEL: What's been really surprising to me is how many women have contacted me to say that they wished they had little green army women when they were children in back in the '60s.

ALLYN: Some customers pushed back on the idea. They said showing bazooka-toting women in the mold of mid-century soldiers would be rewriting history since women weren't allowed in combat roles back then. But Imel says that's not the point.

IMEL: Some kid somewhere, this will help them feel like they're the hero in their story during playtime.

ALLYN: Vivian, who just started first grade, is grateful.

VIVIAN: I can't wait to buy some girl army toys, and I can't wait to play with them.

ALLYN: And when she gets them, Vivian has said she might just move all the boy army men out of the way and just play with the girls.

Bobby Allyn, NPR News.

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