Bessie Coleman

Bessie Coleman honored with Barbie ‘Inspiring Women Series’ Doll

Mattel, maker of the iconic Barbie doll, has an Inspiring Women series that pays tribute to courageous women with Barbie dolls in their honor.

Chimpanzee expert Dr. Jane Goodall, tennis star Billie Jean King, author Maya Angelou, astronaut Sally Ride and First Lady of Song, Ella Fitzgerald, are among the women who have been honored with dolls in this special Barbie series.

And now Bessie Coleman, the first Black and Native American female aviator, and the first Black person to earn an international pilot’s license, has a Barbie doll in her image as well.

The dolls is sculpted in Coleman’s likeness and wears a traditional olive-green aviator suit, with tall lace-up boots and a “BC”-initialed cap.

To celebrate Coleman’s birthday, on January 26, customers flying on American Airline’s Flight 771 from Dallas to New York received the new doll.

American Airlines also hosted a special program for aviation students at the Ronald E. McNair public school 5 in Brooklyn, New York.

The Bessie Coleman story is impressive and inspiring

Coleman was born in 1892 in Atlanta, Texas, one of 13 children, and moved to Chicago in 1915.

She wanted to earn a pilot’s license, but flight schools in the United States wouldn’t accept her. So she applied to – and was accepted into – a flight school in France. There she she earned her license in June 15, 1921, in just seven months. She went on to take more training to learn the acrobatic stunts, such as walking on an aircraft’s wings, that she became known for.

On September 3, 1922, in Long Island, New York, Coleman made the first public flight by an African American woman in the United States. By 1925 she had become a popular barnstormer, performing acrobatic feats in air shows – and giving lectures – across the United States. Sadly, an aviation accident in 1926 took her life.

Courtesy Smithsonian Institution National Air & Space Museum

In addition to being honored this year with a Barbie Inspiring Women Series doll, Coleman also landed on the newest U.S. quarter. On January 3, 2023, the United States Mint released a quarter featuring pilot Bessie Coleman as a part of the American Women Quarters Program. Coleman’s quarter is marked with the date June 15, 2021, to honor the 100th anniversary of the date she became the first African American woman to earn a pilot’s license.   

Celebrating the centenary of Bessie Coleman’s pilot license

On Monday, the National Air and Space Museum, and many others, marked the 100th anniversary of the day Bessie Coleman earned her pilot’s license – and changed history.

Click through the links in the tweets below to learn more about this incredible woman and some of the men and women who were inspired by her accomplishments.

Bessie Coleman next to a Curtiss JN-4 Jenny aircraft  -courtesy National Air and Space Museum