The One Iconic Figure We Never Knew Was From Wisconsin
Barbie Millicent Roberts, aka, Barbie Doll, was born on March 9, 1959, but most people don't know that she is 'from' Wisconsin.
I'm a Barbie Girl
I was 100% a Barbie girl in my youth, and now my two daughters are 100% Barbie girls too. Barbie has had many looks and professions during her 64 years on this Earth. She has gone on many grand adventures with her family and friends on TV, in books, and in movies, but the one thing I never knew about Barbie was that she is actually from Wisconsin.
Please allow me to explain.
Barbie Doll 'Grew Up' in Wisconsin
Barbie Doll technically debuted at a toy fair in New York City in 1959 and was created by a woman named Ruth Handler, who was one of the co-founders of Mattel, but in Barbie's fictional world, she is from Wisconsin.
In all my years of playing with Barbies, and now watching her movies and TV shows with my daughters, not once do I remember hearing anything about Barbie being from Wisconsin, but the proof is in black and white on barbiemedia.com;
She is from (fictional) Willows, Wisconsin, where she attended high school.
After discovering that little Barbie factoid, I needed to know the reason behind it. Why did Ruth Handler choose Willows, Wisconsin as her doll's hometown? Was Ruth herself from Wisconsin?
Let's start by saying Ruth Handler was NOT from Wisconsin, she was actually born in Denver, Colorado, and moved to Los Angeles after she got married. Honestly, I couldn't find a concrete reason why Wisconsin was chosen as Barbie's home state, so I can only assume it was Handler's way of bringing some good-hometown-country-girl feel to the doll's backstory. I can also tell you that Willow is the name of a legit small town in Richmond County Wisconsin, so maybe that is where some of the inspiration came from too?
During my quest to find out more about Barbie's Wisconsin past, I did come across this article from Milwaukee Record that provides some interesting insight into Barbie's fictional hometown. For example;
- Willows, Wisconsin is "known" for its abundance of willow trees and was started by the "Founding Fathers Of Willows" who hid treasure somewhere in the town.
- Some Barbie shows, books, and movies have mentioned and featured Barbie's Wisconsin upbringing, but accounts of her childhood differ frequently.
- Mattel once made a "Willows, Wisconsin Series" of dolls that featured vintage and countryfied looks.
Here is one YouTube clip I found from a Barbie Dreamhouse Adventures episode that features a trip to Barbie's aunt's Wisconsin B&B called "Windy Willows"...
Now that we know Barbie is a Wisconsin girl, when we finally see a Packers-jersey-wearing, cheese-eating, beer-drinking version of everyone's favorite plastic doll? We'll be waiting, Mattel.