Back in August, six-year-old Vivian Lord from Little Rock, Arkansas wondered why the classic, plastic, green toy soldiers were only men. After realizing the lack of gender representation, she aptly wrote a letter to BMC Toys, the company responsible for manufacturing the figurines, asking them to make women soldiers. Now, her letter has made history.
BMC Toys has launched the Plastic Women Army project, a development initiative to start mass production of Green Army Women as soon as possible. The company has announced that the new release of Green Army Women is set to be sold in stores by Christmas 2020.
Jeff Imel, owner of BMC, says Vivian’s letter put the Green Army Women production project at “the top of the list.” While he’s had the idea for about three years, budget constraints prohibited him from executing the project and developing usable models. Imel is the only full-time employee of BMC, which makes financing design and development much harder.
Little Green Army Men hit the mainstream during World War II, when a fascination with military-style toys grew in popularity. The lack of women in combat during WWII has deterred BMC from manufacturing women soldiers, and naysayers argue that women figurines would contradict the true history of WWII veterans. But Imel, and many others, are eager to expand military representation, and show young girls that they can pursue anything.
“Every kid wants to be the hero of their story,” says Imel. “It shouldn’t be up to us to decide who the hero is. Girls should be able to connect to the toys just as much as boys do.”
Another inquiry from JoAnn Ortloff, a retired Fleet Master Chief of the U.S. Navy, inspired the project. Ortloff, who wanted the toys for her granddaughters, insisted that the Green Army Women represent real women in the military accurately.
The budget for the Plastic Women Army project will allow for four different poses set to be packaged in a set of 24 figures. BMC has released concept sketches for the new toys, and are currently taking feedback and suggestions on what they can improve to make the women figurines as accurate and empowering as possible!