UConn Magazine: Our American Girls

What do you do with a history doctorate and a pop culture obsession? If you’re these two alums, you create a hit podcast centering on ’90s nostalgia.

Allison Horrocks and Mary Mahoney bonded over their love of American Girl dolls at UConn, and have turned that love into a popular podcast. (Photo by Helder Mira, courtesy Trinity College Office of Communications)

If you’re surprised to learn that a podcast about the American Girl children’s series of historical fiction books, best known for its accompanying dolls, has amassed 30,000 downloads a month from listeners all over the world and spawned a book deal, you’re not alone.

“I thought the group of friends I watch ‘The Bachelor’ with would listen to this show, and my wife, and that would be it,” says Mary Mahoney ’18 Ph.D., a historian who created and hosts the “American Girls” podcast with her friend and fellow UConn history grad Allison Horrocks ’16 Ph.D. “I wanted a reason to hang out with my friend every other week. I had absolutely no idea we would have the kind of listenership we have.”

The show’s blend of astute historical analysis, warm banter between close friends, and copious pop culture references has earned it a global community of fans. In one 71-minute episode, the hosts discuss the American Girl book “Meet Samantha,” about an orphan living with her wealthy grandmother in 1904 New York. During that episode, pop culture artifacts, along with a few straight up literary and historical references, are mined at various depths.

Read on for more.