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Madam C.J. Walker honored with new doll

The doll is dressed in Madam Walker's favorite colors. Photo: Mattel Inc.

Hoosiers are very familiar with one of the most famous women in Indiana history: Madam C.J. Walker. She is believed to be the first self-made woman millionaire in America who lived from 1867 to 1919 and made her fortune by founding a beauty business that made hair-care and cosmetics products for Black women.

It's exciting to see that Mattel has chosen her as the latest Barbie doll!

The toymaker's newest image in Barbie’s Inspiring Women Series honors Madam Walker. Other women of color in Mattel's series include Ida B. Wells, Ella Fitzgerald and Maya Angelou.

Born Sarah Breedlove in Louisiana, she later lived in St. Louis, then moved to Indiana. In 1910, Madam C.J. Walker set up a laboratory and beauty school in Indianapolis, and between 1911 and her death in 1919, her annual sales increased. Madam Walker was very generous and gave back to her community by contributing to African-American organizations in Indianapolis. She also was a major patron of the arts and supported African-American musicians, actors and artists.

"As a pioneer in entrepreneurship, philanthropy and activism, creating the blueprint for the self-made American businesswoman and innovators of the twentieth century, Madam C.J. Walker is an embodiment of our Barbie Inspiring Women Series," said Lisa McKnight, executive vice president and global head of Barbie and dolls for Mattel.

Madam C.J. Walker. Photo: Courtesy Everett Collection

The doll wears a brightly colored turquoise and purple dress and comes with a “Madam C.J. Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower” accessory.

Madam Walker's great-great-granddaughter, A'Leila Bundles, worked with Barbie designer Carlyle Nuera on skin color, hair and fashion for the doll. Since many photos from the early 20th century are in black and white, Bundles wanted the doll to have an outfit in Madam Walker's favorite colors.

Because Walker’s hair care and cosmetics products were an important part of her legacy, representing those products was crucial, Bundles noted. The doll accessory is based on the original container for the product.

Bundles is a journalist, public speaker and author of Walker's 2001 biography, On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C. J. Walker. She attended North Central High School in Indianapolis and graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges. She also served as a member of the Washington Township School Board and was a fiscal administrator with the City of Indianapolis.

For more on Madam C.J. Walker, click here:

For more on A'Leia Bundles, click here:

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