Womens History

Iconic Barbie doll turns 60 years old

As the decades continued, Barbie's contribution to girl empowerment expanded

BENTONVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) - Barbie was the brainchild of one of Mattel's co-founder's, Ruth Handler, 60 years ago in 1959. 

The iconic doll encouraged girls to role-play as caregivers and nurturers, but as the times changed, so did she. Barbie became transforming into a career-oriented doll and gave young girls an avenue to dream beyond their imaginations. Mattel released both a surgeon and astronaut Barbie speaking history into existence. 

"I love our astronaut Barbie from 1965. I mean this was a doll created before Neil Armstrong, a man, went to the moon, which was pretty impressive," said Lisa McKnight, Senior Vice President  & General.

As the decades continued, Barbie's contribution to girl empowerment expanded. It was particularly groundbreaking in the 80s and 90s.

"She was a CEO and this was a time when there were a lot of movies about women breaking through the glass ceiling and it was popular in pop culture and in real life women were becoming CEOs," Lisa McKnight.

"The way the brand has changed is the way we have changed in culture, you'll always see Barbie being reflective of what's happening right now in society, in the world of fashion," said Kim Culmone, Senior Vice President of  Design for Barbie.

Barbie has stood the test of time; being timeless and timely. She has been reflecting what girls see around them and has been a symbol of inspiration for young girls to break even more barriers in life. 

"Niche careers like Beekeeper Barbie and of course robotics engineer. We've also had history in the STEM field and it's an important are for us to continue to reinforce with girls," said McKnight.

Barbie is not only reflecting change in women and their careers but changing the meaning of beauty as it launched its most diverse line in 2015.

"In terms of the body type, we've had multiple skin colors, eye colors, hair textures. We're on a path of continued evolution," said Culmone.

"So as long as we continue to connect to culture and are as inclusive as possible, as reflective of the world around us I think Barbie will have the staying power for the next 60 years," said McKnight.

You can celebrate Barbie's 60th anniversary with Walmart's 'Be Anything' Tour Across America. It kicks off Saturday, March 9 with a celebration at local Walmarts that will give girls the opportunity to explore careers, try on Barbie outfits and a chance to win $20,000 to make their dreams come true. 


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