Vicksburg’s Madame C.J. Walker becomes a Barbie Doll

Published 4:00 am Monday, September 5, 2022

Did you know that Mattel Toy Company released the Madame C.J. Walker Barbie Doll this year?

As many may know, Madame C.J. Walker was the first Black woman self-made millionaire in America due to her hair care product and cosmetics for Black women in the early 1900s. Walker was born in the Louisiana Delta as Sarah Breedlove and was the first in her family to be born free after the Emancipation Proclamation as stated on the History.com website. When Walker was seven years old she became orphaned and lived with her sister and her brother-in-law in Vicksburg. According to the Catfish Row Museum Virtual Exhibit, Walker lived in Vicksburg where she picked cotton and was likely doing household work. She married at 14 years old to Moses McWilliams and had her only child, Lelia (later known as A’Lelia Walker) in 1885. After the death of her husband in 1887, she moved to St. Louis and began creating her hair products due to an illness that was causing hair loss. 

Walker is well known for the success of her hair and cosmetic products but she was also a philanthropist and political and social activist during her time. Her success allowed her to help other Black women by giving them a job at a time when jobs were limited. In 1908, she started a beauty school and factory in Pittsburgh, Penn. that was named after her daughter, A’Lelia as stated on the History.com website. Walker donated funds for educational causes and Black charities such as scholarships for women at Tuskegee Institute to help further their education and donations to NAACP, according to History.com. 

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletter

Receive daily headlines and obituaries

Recently, Mattel announced the availability to purchase the Madame C.J. Walker Barbie Doll. Walker’s doll is part of Mattel’s The Barbie Inspiring Women Series, which pays tribute to women in history who have left a mark in this world and paved the way for the next generation. This collection series was created to help educate children about the amazing women that are honored and to inspire children to become role models for their community. 

According to Zoe Sottile from CNN, Walker’s great-great-granddaughter, A’Lelia Bundles, worked with Mattel when creating the Madame C.J. Walker Barbie doll. This collectible doll wears a floor-length skirt and a floral print blouse with ruffle detailing. It also comes with Walker’s signature hair product, “Madame C.J. Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower.” Each Madame C.J. Walker Barbie comes with a descriptive history of Walker’s life and accomplishments on the back of the box. It is available on the Mattel Website for $35.