Little plastic Army women are now available to preorder and add to your fighting force or create an all-women military of your own.
Toymaker Jeff Imel, president of Victory Buy Inc., has committed to producing sets of the plastic figures "in time for Christmas 2020" he said in an interview with Connecting Vets. Imel said he's currently aiming to release the figures this fall, with plenty of time for gift-giving during the holidays.
A Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign launched last fall met its fundraising goal in the first 12 hours and garnered so much support that Imel expanded the line of figures to include many different poses and features. The campaign raised more than $55,000 with more than 1,200 backers.
The planned poses currently include: pathfinder captain, standing rifleman, kneeling rifleman, prone sniper, grenadier, bazooka operator, running rifleman, combat medic, low-crawl rifleman, radio operator, military working dog team and wounded soldier.
One set of 36 figures, including15 poses, in green, tan or pink is $13.80. Shipping is $5 or free for orders more than $50.
Imel also is developing a special "Rosie the Riveter" figure, in her classic pose.
The figures also are planned to be available in at least three colors: olive green, tan and pink. They'll be made in the U.S.
"I know some supporters don't like the idea of pink soldiers, but a lot of folks asked for the option," he said.
Imel said he's taking feedback from women veterans on the figures' designs.
"The one concern I have is lots of military women have strongly expressed their opinion that non-regulation hair bothers them," he said. But for the tiny toys, getting regulation hair in the design may be difficult.
"The issue is that visually, for a female version of the classic plastic toy soldier, I think some hair details on at least some of the figures is important," Imel said. "Artistically, the model looked better with hair."
The sculptor for the figures has already tried several different lengths and styles of hair, he said.
"I'm looking to make a toy that kids will like and have fun playing with, not historically accurate models," Imel said. "But I don't want to offend military women. Hopefully I can express this in a way that is acceptable."
A 6-year-old's letter
Interest in Imel's project to create women figures to join the male soldiers, who make up one of the most ubiquitous American toys in history, began after a six-year-old girl, Vivian Lord, mailed letters to toy companies asking them to make women toy soldiers.
"I've been wanting to have girl Army men, but there are no girl Army men," Vivian said. "It's kind of weird."
Plastic Army men, sold in buckets and bags, have changed a lot through their more than 80 years. But a few things have remained constant -- most of them are still green, and they're all men.
In the early years of the toys, the little green men came in few alternative colors and forms -- German troops were gray, Japanese were yellow. The soldiers have since had uniforms and weapons to match many generations of troops, including Vietnam and other major U.S. conflicts. They even come in new colors, including blue and pink.
But even the pink Army men are still men.
In her letter, provided to Connecting Vets, Vivian appeals to the toy companies: "My friend's mom is in the Army too! I saw the pink ones, but those aren't girls and people in the Army don't wear pink."
When Vivian learned of the success of the Kickstarter campaign, Imel said her mom told him she "jumped up and down" when she heard of plans to include a military working dog team.
"They've set up a post office box for anyone that would like to send Vivian a postcard or note," Imel said.
Vivian's post office box address is:
PO Box 7222
Little Rock, AR 72217
Women make up about 10 percent of the U.S. Armed Forces and are the fastest-growing group of troops.
But those fighting women are not often represented in popular culture and are missing in action from what may be one of the most popular military toys of all time.
Imel's toy company, BMC Toys, seems to be the first to seriously consider allowing women to join the ranks in a major way.
Starting in March, Imel posted on the company's website sketches of "BMC Plastic Army Women Figures" as a long-term potential project.
But after Vivian's letter made headlines and after national media -- beginning with Connecting Vets -- published stories on the subject, Imel said he has had much more interest. Subscribers to a newsletter about the project have more than doubled and now there is a PlasticArmyWomen.com.
Imel commissioned more art, requested rush quotes from factory partners and hired a sculptor to create prototype toys.
The plan is to have packs of plastic Army women in multiple poses and colors, Imel said, but those plans might not be the end.
"There's been some great figure suggestions that I didn't include because they should be part of a future Navy and/or Air Force set," he said. "I'm staying with the ground infantry combat theme for this mold."
He said he's also planning bucket and boxed playsets, some of which may include men and women in the same set "which has been another frequent request," vehicles or even a WAC HQ.
In addition to the first plastic Army women, Imel said he's also had a hand in the first set dedicated to the Buffalo Soldiers. He's also considering merchandise to go along with the release of the plastic Army women, including buttons, magnets, stickers, hats, T-shirts and more for those who backed the campaign.
Imel said he heard from a supporter who told him she'd wanted a set of women soldiers for more than 60 years.
"It's not too often you get to help fulfill a Christmas wish from six decades ago," he said.
For more information, or to sign up for the BMC Toys plastic Army women mailing list, click here.