“Math class is tough!” Those few words got Mattel in hot water when their Teen Talk Barbie uttered them among many other phrases. Protesters felt that this doll reinforced negative stereotypes that girls weren’t suited to pursue math and science. Well, we’ve come a long way since 1992, when Teen Talk Barbie was released.
Mattel has announced that NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson is among the latest honorees to receive a doll as part of its Barbie ‘Inspiring Women’ series. Johnson worked for NASA from the 1950s until the 80s, calculating and verifying trajectories for the Mercury and Apollo programs. Taraji P. Henson portrayed Johnson in the 2016 Oscar-nominated film ‘Hidden Figures’ which also featured Octavia Spencer as NASA supervisor Dorothy Vaughan and Janelle Monáe as engineer Mary Jackson.
Of course, the Barbie doll is based on the real woman and not Henson’s film depiction. The other two dolls in this set are famous pilot Amelia Earhart and Mexican painter Frida Kahlo.
Barbie® recognizes all female role models. The Inspiring Women™ Series 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. While growing up in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, Katherine Johnson displayed an intense curiosity and an extraordinary brilliance with words and numbers alike. As a child prodigy, she entered high school at 10 years old and graduated summa cum laude from college when she was just eighteen with two Bachelor of Science degrees in mathematics and French. In the mid-1950s, she joined a pool of African-American women hired by NASA to work as human computers. Katherine calculated the trajectory of NASA’s first American-manned flight into space. Her flawless calculations helped ensured that the Apollo astronauts landed and returned safely from their voyage to the moon. Her figures were so consistently accurate, that when NASA switched to computers, they had Katherine double-check the accuracy of the results. The Barbie® Inspiring Women™ Katherine Johnson doll celebrates the achievements of a pioneer who broke through barriers of race and gender. Like the trajectories she calculated, Katherine’s contributions inspire young people to excel in math and science, and to reach for the stars. Includes doll, doll stand and Certificate of Authenticity.
The Katherine Johnson doll was designed by Kelley Lindberg. As part of the Barbie Black Label line, the doll is a reasonable $29.99.
If you’d like to own your own Katherine Johnson doll, you can find them at Barbie.com.