Barbie's latest doll honors trailblazing journalist Ida B. Wells: 'Her legacy has the power to help young girls realize their strength and potential'

·5 min read
The latest doll to join Barbie's Inspiring Women series is Ida B. Wells, a journalist and early leader in the civil rights movement who not only fought for African American equality, but for that of women. (Photo: Mattel)
The latest doll to join Barbie's Inspiring Women series is Ida B. Wells, a journalist and early leader in the civil rights movement who not only fought for Black equality, but for that of women. (Photo: Mattel)

Barbie's latest doll honors trailblazing journalist Ida B. Wells, the newest release in their Inspiring Women series.

Launched in 2018, the Barbie Inspiring Women series is a doll line paying tribute to historical and present-day role models. Each woman honored in the series has made history by paving the way for generations of girls to reach their full potential, dream bigger and make their voices heard. The line has previously paid tribute to greats like Maya Angelou, Rosa Parks, Helen Keller, Billie Jean King and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Barbie will now honor a new heroine who has changed the course of history and ultimately made the world a better place: Ida B. Wells. An early leader in the civil rights movement and co-founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), not only did Wells fight for Black equality, but for that of women.

"Barbie is proud to honor the incredible Ida B. Wells as the newest role model in our Inspiring Women series," said the Mattel-manufactured company in an Instagram announcement. "When kids learn about heroes like Ida B. Wells, they don't just imagine a better future — they know they have the power to make it come true."

The latest release is part of the iconic brand's unwavering commitment to spotlight Black role models who are female and continue to provide resources that directly impact the community.

The Wells doll is dressed in a floor-length lace dress and holds a miniature replica of the Memphis Free Speech, the newspaper where she would eventually become both editor and co-owner while only in her twenties. The doll's wardrobe is meant to showcase her activist spirit and inspire girls to be their own trailblazers through imaginative play.

The doll was created in partnership with Ida B. Wells' family, including her great-granddaughter, Michelle Duster. She, too, has carved her own path as a public historian and author of the newly released book, Ida B. Wells, Voice of Truth.

"My great-grandmother was known to be opinionated, uncompromising, difficult, unreasonable and many other things that strong women can sometimes be labeled," Duster tells Yahoo Life. "I admire how she ignored the negativity and stayed focused on her goal even when she had to sometimes go it alone."

"She showed by example how important it is to believe in yourself even when others don't see the vision or believe that something is possible," she adds. "Your own belief is enough."

Wells great-granddaughter, Michelle Duster, has also written a children's book about the journalist and activist. (Photo: Mattel)
Wells great-granddaughter, Michelle Duster, has also written a children's book about the journalist and activist. (Photo: Mattel)

Ida B. Wells was a journalist, activist, suffragist and researcher who tirelessly helped shine a spotlight on civil injustice. She was born into slavery and struck with a series of tragedies early in life but persevered to later become arguably the most famous Black woman in America at the time. Her achievements include co-founding the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs and the NAACP. An anti-lynching crusader, she was also honored in 2020 with a posthumous Pulitzer Prize.

"I hope that little girls who see or play with the Barbie Ida B. Wells Inspiring Women doll are inspired to learn more about her story and feel empowered to speak up for justice, freedom and equal opportunity," shares Duster. "My great-grandmother's fortitude has inspired generations of activists and I know her legacy has the power to help young girls realize their strength and potential are stronger than they might think."

The Barbie Inspiring Women series is part of the brand's efforts to close what they call the "Dream Gap." Based on New York University research indicating girls begin to develop self-limiting beliefs around age 5, the ongoing global initiative was created to offer support and resources that encourage girls to become good leaders and take interest in a wide variety of careers. Since launching in 2018, the program has donated $250,000 each year to charities who work directly with young girls.

To honor the release of the Ida B. Wells Barbie, the Barbie Dream Gap Project will be funding writing and publishing programs for female and gender-expansive youth. Additionally, a virtual Barbie Dream Gap event will be held on Feb. 18 in partnership with Michelle Duster.

"We were honored that Barbie chose to celebrate my great-grandmother with an Inspiring Women doll, joining an impressive series of other accomplished women who fought just as courageously for what was right," says Duster. "Working with a brand like Barbie allows us to continue to share my great-grandmother's truth and enduring legacy with the younger generation"

One of Wells' famous quotes appears on the back of her doll's box:
One of Wells' famous quotes appears on the back of her doll's box: "The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them." (Photo: Mattel)

In conjunction with the release, Barbie is partnering with Girls Write Now, an organization that seeks to inspire the next generation of female journalists. The non-profit strives to break down the barriers of race, gender, age and poverty through mentoring. Barbie will also encourage Amazon customers to make philanthropic donations to Girls Write Now in celebration of Black History Month by selecting the organization as their preferred charity on Amazon Smile.

The release campaign honors Wells' legacy and her belief that "the way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them."

The Ida B. Wells Barbie Inspiring Women series doll will be available beginning Jan. 17, 2022, coinciding with Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and will retail for $29.99 at Amazon, Walmart and Target.

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