Jefferson and Greene County are hosting a commemorative 55th birthday celebration for Barbie, the Mattel-made doll and image of ideal female beauty for countless children.

The Barbie doll was introduced on March 9, 1959, and her harshest critics have blamed her for everything from low self-esteem in girls to the current epidemic of eating disorders in the US.

On March 6 the Jefferson Public Library presented a free Barbie fashion runway party for kindergarteners through second graders.

The show included "beauty stations, fashion accessories and more," a library spokesperson said, and the children "made a fashion statement in jeans or fancy party dress" and posed for photos on the makeshift runway.

The highlight of the event was a special guest appearance by Barbie herself, her plastic body belying its 55 years.

The Greene County Historical Society will host two free events this Sunday at the museum at 219 E. Lincoln Way, along with the day-long display of the 300-doll Barbie collection that was donated to the museum in 2003 by Jefferson native Arlene Klatt.

A Barbie Birthday Party Bash for children 5 and older will run from 1-2 p.m.. Children are encouraged to bring their own Barbies, Kens and other dolls in their collections and to come dressed up as Barbie. There will be a Barbie doll scavenger hunt throughout the museum along with free treats.

At 3 p.m. Carla Offenburger, who a decade ago taught a class at Buena Vista University on the global phenomenon of Barbie, will speak for an audience of older students and adults in a talk entitled, "Barbie – a timeless treasure."

Offenburger, who lives near Cooper and is community relations director at Greene County Medical Center, said the enduring popularity of the Barbie doll gives it historical relevance. She is herself the same age as Barbie, which adds to her interest in Barbie, and her own views about the doll have changed over the years.

"It is obvious that as she turns 55, Barbie has survived generations as a young girl’s toy," Offenburger said. "But she’s also matured into a multi-generational icon. And that’s about a lot more than being a toy."

Ces Brunow, president of the Greene County Historical Society, said the "the museum’s extensive Barbie doll collection is really something to see, and we think having two events on one day, a Barbie-themed birthday party for young girls and a thoughtful presentation on Barbie’s impact on pop-culture, will bring in even more people to discover what our museum offers."

Brunow said Arlene Klatt, who donated the 300 dolls, now lives in retirement at Friendship Haven in Fort Dodge. "I’ve written to her expressing our appreciation and inviting her to the events," Brunow said.