The new Eleanor Roosevelt Barbie delights historians


Mattel’s new Barbie Eleanor Roosevelt was released on Wednesday. (Photo: Mattel)

Women’s History Month kicked off this week, and toymaker Mattel, for its part, announced it would be releasing an Eleanor Roosevelt Barbie, as part of its Inspiring Women series, which has already mass-produced. versions of Billie Jean King, Sally Ride, Susan B. Anthony, Maya Angelou and others who “paved the way for generations of girls to dream bigger than ever,” a press release read.

He went on to explain that the new doll, “A champion of policies around civil and economic rights, Eleanor Roosevelt’s passionate advocacy was unwavering, even in the face of resistance. Earning the title ‘First Lady of the World’ for her hard work and dedication to humanitarian endeavours, Eleanor Roosevelt’s perseverance redefined the role of women in politics and public life.”

Barbie, of course, tends to bring out strong feelings in people. The 60-year-old little doll has been derided by some for decades (and still is) for her comically unrealistic proportions and details – from her petite stature to her ready stiletto feet – and blamed, even found across studies, To do years of damage to the collective body image little girls everywhere. Not to mention his diversity problem.

But Mattel has made obvious efforts over the years to transform its Barbie brand, introducing dolls representing a range of races, physical abilities, body sizes and careers, as well as continuing its Inspiring Women series – by launching Roosevelt, which came out on Wednesday. , with his “You Can Be Anything” virtual series, starting Saturday, ahead of International Women’s Day, spotlighting current role models including Yara Shahidi and Adwoa Aboah.

To get a first read on the evolution of the short story of Roosevelt’s Barbie version, we turned to those who know her best: renowned scholars and historians of the First Lady of the World.

Blanche Wiesen Stove, historian and professor of history

Author of definitive biographies Eleanor Roosevelt, Vol I: The Early Years 1884-1933, Vol II The Decisive Years 1933-1938; Vol III The War Years and After

“I am thrilled that Eleanor Roosevelt is a Barbie doll – imagine! Young people will contemplate her vision: health care, housing, dignity for all! Human rights, peace, justice for all. The end of racism, bigotry , cruelty, poverty! The triumph of love and hope throughout the world.”

Carl Sferrazza Antoine, historian of first ladies

Author of a dozen books on the subject, including the next camera girl, on future first lady Jacqueline Bouvier’s time as a newspaper columnist

“I think that’s very cool. That’s the reality in 2021,” he told Yahoo Life. “There is so much competition for children’s attention and so whether in cartoon, comic or toy form, it is important that essential historical figures are understood and studied. Often the best way is to meet children in the world they occupy because by introducing them at a young age and capturing their fascination, you will often lead to a deeper and better interest throughout life…” adds Sferrazza Anthony , “I began researching Eleanor Roosevelt 30 years ago, and to this day when I have read articles about her, I am still amazed at her vision and amazed at her wisdom and compassion, and it is very important that it is by no means forgotten…Any way to capture the attention of children in 2021 – and keep it – is worth pursuing.

“The dress doesn’t make her look like a toothpick! And [the hat] looks like one of the hats she wore,” notes historian Allida Black. (Photo: Mattel)

Amy Bloom, best-selling writer and psychotherapist

Author of White Houses, the historical novel about Roosevelt and his longtime lover, journalist Lorena Hickok

“This announcement made my day. Eleanor Roosevelt went from being an American princess of the Roosevelt dynasty (the beloved niece of President Teddy Roosevelt) to being an advocate for the poor and outcast. She came later in life to the political activism – desegregation, civil rights, voter rights, women’s rights – and once there, she didn’t falter,” Bloom says. “She didn’t care what the press said about her (too brash, overly caring, overly political) or what his enemies were saying (women should be seen and not heard). This Barbie is wonderful for young girls and maybe even better for their mothers and grandmothers. I can’t stop, I won’t stop.”

Sue Williams, documentary filmmaker

Director of American Experience: Eleanor Roosevelt for PBS

“It strikes me as ironic, almost poignant, because when Eleanor was a little child, her mother made her painfully aware that she was definitely not a beauty; it was a deep wound that probably never healed.” , Williams told Yahoo Life. “Today, Eleanor’s work as a civil rights champion, advocate for the poor and dispossessed, as a partner of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in many of his national programs, so outweighs her attributes physical that they are all but forgotten. And if today’s young girls are encouraged to learn – from Barbie, no less – about all of Eleanor’s complexity, her determination, her political strengths and her keen intelligence, realizing that her appearance was just irrelevant, I think that’s fine.”

"Girls need more role models like Eleanor Roosevelt," note the packaging of the new Barbie, "because imagining that they can be anything is just the start.  In fact, seeing them can make all the difference." (Photo: Mattel)

“Girls need more role models like Eleanor Roosevelt,” notes the packaging for the new Barbie, “because imagining they can be anything is just the beginning. In fact, seeing that they can make all the difference.” (Photo: Mattel)

David Michaelis, successful biographer

Author of Eleanor

“My first thought was, well, his uncle got the teddy bear, so why not?” said Michaelis. “Here’s the thing about Eleanor – yes, she had buck teeth. Yes, she had a reputation for being simple, for being simple…but in real life, when people saw her, they were almost uniformly She was fresh, young, urban, she had energy, and when you got close, she had a glow that ran through her fair skin. She had luminous blue eyes…and a beaming smile, hair shiny and uplifted…and she was something, according to people from Ernest Hemingway to the little girl from a town she visited famously saying, “She’s not so bad after all.” thought of the way [Mattel] presented on the box was really beautiful and magnificent, and so from an educational and historical point of view, it’s great… It’s an idealization, and Barbie is necessarily an idealization, but what interests me is the way Mattel presents it [on the box], with a cute glamorous black and white photo, with a copy of her as an international human rights figure and the NAACP…all elements of who Eleanor really was…”

Allida Black, professor-researcher in history, historian Eleanor Roosevelt and administrator of the FDR library

Emeritus Editor of the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers

“I think it’s fabulous. I’m all for people finding out about Eleanor Roosevelt in any way, and if it inspires young girls and even young boys to have the vision and the courage of Eleanor, I say go ahead,” Black said. “Eleanor loved clothes – she posed for vogue magazine — so it’s also nice to see her characterized as a fashionable woman rather than denigrated as a woman of grief with horrible teeth. She is really stereotypical as ugly as sin, which is absolutely not accurate. She had piercing blue eyes, a smile that lit up a room, and young Eleanor was gorgeous. So, I’m happy to see that, happy that children are exposed to her… Plus the dress doesn’t make her look like a toothpick! And [the hat] looks like one of the hats she wore. I’m just glad she’s not in a bathing suit.”

Learn more about Yahoo Life:

Want to get lifestyle and wellness news delivered to your inbox? register here for the Yahoo Life newsletter.


Comments are closed.