Mattel Releases Rosa Parks and Sally Ride Dolls

Mattel is honoring civil rights activist Rosa Parks and astronaut Sally Ride, the first American woman to travel into space, with Barbie dolls modeled after them.

Children around the world will have an opportunity to add these two historical female figurines to their collection, the company announced on August 26, HuffPost reported. The two dolls are part of Barbie’s Inspiring Women series which “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,” the website states. Some of the other dolls featured in the series include artist and activist Frida Kahlo and mathematician Katherine Johnson.

“These historical women broke boundaries that made the world a better place for future generations of girls,” the company stated.

In 1955, Parks boarded a bus in Montgomery, Alabama and sat in the “whites only” section, in direct defiance of the city’s segregation ordinances. As more white passengers boarded, the bus driver asked Parks to give up her seat, but she refused and was arrested. Her resistance sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which helped ignite the national Civil Rights Movement.

Before initiating the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Parks was a longtime activist and the secretary of the Montgomery chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). People have tried to downplay Parks’ activism by claiming she was just a seamstress who was tired and did not want to get up, but Parks denied that claim. She explained:

“I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was 42. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in,” according to the National Women’s History Museum website.

“Rosa Parks’ quiet strength played a notable role in the Civil Rights Movement, but it would take nine more years of organized nonviolent protest before the 1964 Civil Rights Act eliminated existing [segregation] laws,” the description from the Barbie website read. “Hailed as ‘the Mother of the Modern Civil Rights Movement,’ Rosa Parks earned worldwide recognition and numerous awards including the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal of Honor.”

Ride, the second doll in the collection, was the first American woman in space. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in physics and her Bachelor of Arts degree in English in 1973 from Stanford University. Ride went on to earn her Master of Science and doctorate degrees in physics in 1975 and 1978. In 1977, Ride responded to a job ad placed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) “for young scientists to serve as ‘mission specialists’ on future space flights,” the website stated.

Ride was one out of the five women selected for NASA’s class of 1978 and then was selected as one of the five crew members to board the space shuttle Challenger STS-7.

“On June 18, 1983, Sally Ride blasted off aboard space shuttle Challenger to become the first American woman — and the youngest American — to fly in space. Sally’s adventurous nature, quest for discovery, and pioneering accomplishments inspire girls everywhere to boldly reach for the stars,” the description from the Barbie website read.

Both dolls became available for purchase on August 26. Lisa McKnight, the senior vice president and global head of Barbie, told HuffPost the two dolls are designed to encourage girls to chase their dreams and show them they can be anything.

“As a brand that is dedicated to inspiring the limitless potential in every girl, Barbie is shining a spotlight on role models, historical and modern, to show them they can be anything,” McKnight said in a statement to the news outlet. “Both Sally Ride and Rosa Parks are changemakers, so these dolls celebrate their achievements, while also encouraging girls to challenge the status quo.”


About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.