Article Lead Image

Screengrab via Kickstarter

The Kickstarter-funded dolls who want to be senators, engineers, and CEOs

Neha Chauhan Woodward wants to provide girls with 'intelligent, ambitious' dolls.


Catherine Scott


Posted on Mar 4, 2016   Updated on May 27, 2021, 3:22 am CDT

Twenty-two years after Lisa Simpson called for an alternative to vacuous dolls, Neha Chauhan Woodward is creating intelligent and ambitious dolls for a new generation of girls to play with. 

She has designed seven characters with interests far beyond hairstyles and boys, and is holding a Kickstarter to get them produced. Known as the Willowbrook Girls, the dolls are a group of fifth-grade friends whose backgrounds and interests are as diverse as their ambitions; they play football, dance, and write code, and aspire to be senators, engineers, and journalists. Creating diverse and intelligent characters was particularly important to Chauhan Woodward, who is Indian-American, and is a Harvard graduate with an MBA from Stanford.

In an email to the Daily Dot, Chauhan Woodward wrote:

When I was growing up, I was always disappointed that the focus of my dolls was so much on appearance instead of ambition, and I was surprised to see that still be the case so many years later. I started talking to parents, who connected me to even more parents, and realized there was a real opportunity and need to build a better doll for girls–ones that were empowering and inspiring.

Chauhan Woodward said inspiration for the characters was drawn from “the smart, funny, outspoken, ambitious girls I knew growing up”—and ambitious these dolls certainly are. Maya wants to be an engineer, Rory a scientist, MacKenzie a senator. Anjali dreams of being an actress; Perry wants to be a journalist; Bailey wants to lead education reform; and the first doll to be made in full, Cara, is half-Latina and wants to be a CEO. Chauhan Woodward has teamed up with writer Molly Donovan, who is writing storybooks to accompany each character and help bring their personalities to life.

Chauhan Woodward started growing a social media audience for Willowbrook Girls with an Instagram account, which now has just under 25,000 followers. The interest has clearly translated into financial backers, as $23,000 of the $30,000 fundraising goal has been achieved on Kickstarter, with 13 days left to hit the target. There are a wealth of rewards for backers to opt for along with the dolls such as friendship bracelets, stickers, storybooks, and collector’s editions. Backers can also choose to donate a doll to Toys for Tots, a charity that provides toys and books to underprivileged children.

Screengrab via Kickstarter

Share this article
*First Published: Mar 4, 2016, 6:28 pm CST