Eleanore Roosevelt

TVA Champion Eleanor Roosevelt Becomes the Newest Barbie

Former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt is remembered fondly in history books, but a new endeavor is aiming to bring her into the homes of kids across the world.

As part of Mattel’s “Inspiring Women” series, which pays tribute to inspirational women throughout history, Roosevelt will soon become the only United States first lady to have a Barbie doll made in her likeness. Mattel’s newest release comes as the brand celebrates International Women’s Day, which is March 8. It is a day that commemorates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

Roosevelt certainly deserves the honor. Characterized as an American political figure, diplomat and activist, her achievements are many. She is the longest-serving first lady of the United States and the first to hold regular press conferences. She served as United States delegate to the United National General Assembly from 1945 to 1952, and President Truman dubbed her the “First Lady of the World” in tribute to her human rights achievements.

As wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, she visited the Tennessee Valley on multiple occasions. David Lilienthal, one of the first TVA directors, had several opportunities to be in Mrs. Roosevelt’s company. He described her in his journals as having a “crinkly-eyed smile – charming, gracious, simple.” Roosevelt was also quite adventurous. In a 1935 visit she famously hitched a ride on a cableway over the Norris Dam construction site. 

Even after FDR died, Roosevelt kept a soft spot in her heart for TVA. In fact, in her newspaper column, “My Day,” she wrote about a February 1955 visit to the town of Norris and Norris Dam. In her eyes, Norris had not changed much. She still found it a “charming residential area.” She was delighted to return to the dam, noting that the map in the reception room “shows the whole development along the Tennessee River.”  Championing TVA in her column, she wrote: “I sometimes wonder if the Congress realizes that TVA is perhaps one of our strongest manifestations against communism. Visitors come to see what a democracy has done to improve the opportunities for private enterprise and to make the life of the people through a whole area infinitely better than it was before this development took place.”

A representative of the National Women’s History Museum shares why Mrs. Roosevelt is historically significant: “Eleanor Roosevelt was one of the most influential First Ladies in history. She was a fierce advocate for peace, racial justice, and civil rights; a keen and savvy political adviser; and a tireless champion of women’s equality and economic opportunity. She truly devoted her life to making the world a better, more just place.”

What better role model for kids and adults alike today?