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Ida B. Wells Is Mattel’s Latest ‘Inspiring Women’ Barbie Doll

Ellen Gutoskey
Ida B. Wells-Barnett in the newsroom.
Ida B. Wells-Barnett in the newsroom. / Mattel
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Last year, Chicago unveiled a national monument honoring civil rights activist Ida B. Wells-Barnett. The sculpture—the city’s first monument honoring a Black woman—is known as the “Light of Truth,” a reference to her assertion that “the way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.”

As a journalist, Wells-Barnett did just that, reporting extensively on the systemic lynching of Black Americans after white supremacists lynched three of her own friends in 1892. In 2020, she was posthumously awarded a special Pulitzer Prize for this work.

Born to enslaved parents in Mississippi during the Civil War, Wells-Barnett devoted her entire life to combating discrimination in every arena. She sued a railroad company for ejecting her from the train because she wouldn’t leave the white-only car. She backed a boycott of Chicago’s 1893 world’s fair over its negative representation and general exclusion of the Black community. She co-founded the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs and campaigned tirelessly for suffrage.

Wells-Barnett in the 1890s.
Wells-Barnett in the 1890s. / R. Gates/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The latest tribute to Wells-Barnett isn’t a monument or a prize—it’s a Barbie doll, the latest in Mattel’s ‘Inspiring Women’ series. Previous trailblazing women in the series have included Maya Angelou, Susan B. Anthony, Helen Keller, and more. The Ida B. Wells-Barnett Barbie is clad in a long dress and clutches an issue of the Memphis Free Speech, the Tennessee newspaper she wrote for and co-owned.

Wells-Barnett in Barbie form.
Wells-Barnett in Barbie form. / Mattel

“My great-grandmother was a trailblazer, who courageously followed her convictions and challenged the status quo by fighting for civil rights and women’s suffrage,” Michelle Duster, Wells-Barnett’s great-granddaughter and author of Ida B. Wells, Voice of Truth, said in a press release. “This is an incredible opportunity to shine a light on her truth and enduring legacy to empower a new generation to speak up for what they believe in.”

The $30 doll will be available to purchase starting January 17 from Target, Walmart, and Amazon.

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