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Ida B. Wells: Black Journalist And Suffragist, Honored With New Barbie Doll

Jan 16, 2022 09:00AM ● By Candice Stewart

Ida B. Wells photograph (Wikimedia Commons), Ida B. Wells Barbie doll. (Jason Tidwell/Mattel)

As written by Adlea Suliman of the Washington Post in a recent release, "Black American journalist, suffragist, and anti-lynching crusader Ida B. Wells will have her likeness transformed into a Barbie doll to honor her historic achievements."

Ida B. Wells-Barnett was a prominent Black American journalist, activist, and researcher in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 

Her life's work included her continued battle against sexism, racism, and violence. She also used her skills as a journalist to shed light on the conditions of African Americans throughout the South.

Wells-Barnett, who was born into slavery in Mississippi in 1862 during the Civil War, went on to break boundaries as a prominent suffragist fighting to expand the right to vote.

In a biography written by Arlisha R. Norwood, Fellow of the National Women's History Museum (NWHM), “Ida B. Wells-Barnett traveled internationally, shedding light on lynching to foreign audiences. Abroad, she openly confronted white women in the suffrage movement who ignored lynching." As a result of her stance, she was often ridiculed and ostracized by women’s suffrage organizations in the United States. Despite that, Wells-Barnett remained active in the women’s rights movement.

In a recent Instagram post from the Barbie account, the doll, manufactured by Mattel, said, “Barbie is proud to honor the incredible Ida B. Wells as the newest role model in our Inspiring Women series, dedicated to spotlighting heroes who paved the way for generations of girls to dream big and make a difference.” 

Here's the full Caption from the post.

Screen grab of the caption from the Barbie Instagram post about Ida B. Wells-Barnett.

The Ida B. Wells' doll wears a long black gown, white lace collar, and black boots while clutching a copy of the “Memphis Free Speech and Headlight” newspaper, which she co-owned.

Ida B. Wells Barbie doll. (Jason Tidwell/Mattel)Ida B. Wells Barbie doll. (Jason Tidwell/Mattel)


Ida B. Wells Barbie doll. (Jason Tidwell/Mattel)

Ida B. Wells Barbie doll. (Jason Tidwell/Mattel)

The doll will go on sale in the United States starting Monday, January 17th, coinciding with Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and is part of the “Inspiring Women” series from Barbie’s maker, Mattel. 

Other women represented in plastic include nurse Florence Nightingale, tennis star Billie Jean King, and author Maya Angelou.  

Ms. Angelou recently made history by becoming the first Black woman to appear on a U.S. quarter.

An image of the quarter was shared on the official Instagram account for Angelou with a portion of the caption stating, "We are celebrating the #MayaAngelouQuarter, the first coin featured in the American Women Quarters™ Program by the United States Mint."


The Maya Angelou Quarter

In 2020, she won a posthumous Pulitzer Prize for her “courageous reporting on the horrific and vicious violence against African Americans during the era of lynching” and helped to found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Her activism and work had brought “light to the stories of injustice that Black people faced in her lifetime,” the Barbie Instagram post says, adding that learning about “heroes” like Wells could help today’s children envision a better future.

After she married prominent Black lawyer and writer Ferdinand Barnett in 1895, she worked to confront racism in the women’s suffrage movement and wrote extensively on her belief in the power of the vote to protect Black people from the horrors of oppression, lynching, and racial terrorism.

Some facts about Ida B. Wells-Barnett

Wells-Barnett stood less than 5 feet tall and began her activism after she was expelled from her local college following a dispute with the university president.

After a yellow fever epidemic killed her parents, she was left to raise her siblings, taking a teaching job to support her family, according to the National Women’s History Museum.

Following the lynching of one of her friends, Wells focused on white mob violence, investigating cases and publishing her findings in pamphlets and newspapers in Memphis, enraging locals and putting her life at risk.

In her memoirs, Wells-Barnett wrote, “I felt that one had better die fighting against injustice than to die like a dog or a rat in a trap.”

She traveled internationally, particularly to Europe, shedding light on lynching for foreign audiences. Wells-Barnett died in 1931 in Chicago, where she had focused on issues of urban reform and social inequality.


National Women's History Museum 

The Washington Post: 

 Candice Stewart is a Jamaican content writer specializing in human interest feature stories. She is a web content writer, blogger, and budding podcaster.

She holds an MA in Communication for Social and Behaviour Change and a BSc. in Psychology from the University of the West Indies (UWI, Mona).

Follow her blog at, where she shares stories and life lessons through real-life experiences.

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