Wells was born enslaved in Holly Springs, Mississippi in 1862. In 1884, while on a train ride from Memphis to Nashville, she purchased a first-class ticket, but the train crew forced her to move to the car for African Americans. She refused and was forcibly removed from the train. Wells decided to fight and sued the railroad. She won a $500 settlement in a circuit case court, but the decision was overturned by the Tennessee Supreme Court.
Under the name “Iola,” she then began to write a series of articles tackling issues of race and politics in the South. She was published in several Black newspapers and periodicals and would later become an owner of two newspapers: The Memphis Free Speech and Headlight and Free Speech.
Back in 2018, Barbie launched its “Inspiring Women Series” on International Women’s Day. The series was focused on paying tribute to “historical role models who paved the way for generations of girls to dream bigger than ever before.”
The series was an offshoot of Mattel’s “Dream Gap” campaign, which championed representation for young girls as studies determined that “that girls began to view their gender as inferior to boys and develop limiting beliefs about themselves at as young as 5 years old, as a result of cultural stereotypes, implicit biases and media representation.”
Last year, Naomi Osaka was immortalized by Mattel. Her doll donned a replica of a Nike tennis dress Osaka wore at the 2020 Australian Open. It also comes with a matching white Nike visor, a tennis ball, and a Yonex racket.
“It’s such an honor to be a part of the Barbie Role Model series, and to remind young girls that they can make a difference in the world,” Osaka said in a release at the time. “I want young girls everywhere to feel empowered to dream big and to know that if they believe in themselves that anything is possible!”