A few weeks ago, I was browsing LinkedIn and getting caught up on the latest professional news. While scrolling, a post appeared that amazed me: Mattel was advertising their newest doll of Ida B. Wells! I couldn’t believe it and immediately went to the website to try and order my own Wells doll. I desperately wanted my 10-year-old daughter to see this doll. She needs to know who Ida B. Wells is and how she contributed to the fight for justice for Black Americans.
As you read this, you might be wondering why Mattel would create a doll of Ida B. Wells. Who is Ida B. Wells anyway? Why was this doll so important to me? Why does my daughter need to know about her? Although this blog post is not intended to provide a detailed history lesson, it’s important to take this moment during Black Heritage Month to shine a light on sheroes like Mrs. Wells and how they paved the way for Black women like me.
In January 2022, the Mattel company released their newest Barbie doll in their Inspiring Women series: Ida B. Wells. The new Wells barbie joins Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou, Helen Keller, and others in this series. According to Mattel, “The Barbie Inspiring Women Series pays tribute to incredible heroines of their time; courageous women who took risks, changed rules, and paved the way for generations of girls to dream bigger than ever before.” Mattel has been making Barbie dolls since 1959 and has continued to transform their popular toy over time to reflect the culture. The first African American Barbie hit the market in 1968, but it wasn’t until 2016 that the Mattel company embarked on an intentional effort to diversity its doll line. In 2018 the Inspiring Women series launched featuring Amelia Earhart, Frida Kahlo, and Katherine Johnson.
Now Ida B. Wells has joined the collection.
Ida B. Wells
Ida B. Wells-Barnett was born in 1862 in Holly Springs, Mississippi. She was a journalist who led a social movement against the lynching of African Americans across the South. She was born into slavery but was freed and given the opportunity to receive a college education. She used her education and the advantages it provided her to advocate for other African Americans through teaching, speaking, and writing. Mrs. Wells was an activist, a champion for justice, and unapologetic in her demands. She serves as a symbol of strength and grace and inspires me to use my gifts and talents to pursue justice with zeal.
Why this Matters
You’ve likely heard the saying “representation matters” in the last several years. Well…it does. That’s why I’m so excited about this new doll and want to introduce it to my daughter. It is essential that little girls, like my daughter, know who she is and what she did for this country. I want my daughter to see her Ida B. Wells Barbie doll and remember that justice is possible but not easy. It takes a commitment to education and service to others. As a social work educator, I am deeply committed to these things. I seek to use my privileges to do as Proverbs 31:8-9 says and “Speak out on behalf of the voiceless, and for the rights of all who are vulnerable. Speak out in order to judge with righteousness and to defend the needy and the poor.” That’s what Ida B. Wells did throughout her life. I am thankful that someone at the Mattel corporation recognized her contribution and deemed her worthy of being represented in the Inspiring Series collection. She has certainly inspired me, and I hope she will be an inspiration to my daughter as well.
Want to read more in our 2022 Black History Month Blog series? Check out all the posts below!
Why Black History Month by Dr. Charles Lee-Johnson
Remembering to Forget, to Begin Again by Dr. Viola Lindsey
Not Black History Just History by Dr. Stephen Brown
Check out the Student Contributions to this series here:
Paving the Way to Worship: Black Christian Leaders You Should Know by Hozell Francis II
Rev. George Liele: Church Planter, Missionary, and Servant of God by Hozell Francis II
Andrew Bryan: Pastor Church Planter, and Servant of God by Armon Patrick
Dr. E. W. McCall: Innovator, Educator, Trendsetter by Hozell Francis II
Lisa Fields: Apologist and Servant of God by Armon Patrick