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Ruth Handler

Ruth Handler invented Barbie Doll and co-founded Mattel Toys


Mattel Founders - Ruth and Elliott Handler With Barber Doll

Mattel Founders - Ruth and Elliott Handler With Barber Doll

Courtesy of Mattel
Ruth and Elliot Handler co-founded Mattel Creations in 1945, and 14 years later in 1959, Ruth Handler invented the Barbie doll, or as Ruth Handler refers to herself, "I'm Barbie's mom."

Inspiration for the Barbie Doll

Ruth Handler watched her daughter Barbara and friends playing with paper dolls. The children used them to play make-believe, imagining roles as college students, cheerleaders and adults with careers. Ruth wanted to invent a doll that would better facilitate the way young girls were playing with their dolls.

Ruth Handler and Mattel introduced Barbie, the Teen-Age Fashion Model, to skeptical toy buyers at the annual Toy Fair in New York on March 9, 1959. The new doll was very unlike the baby and toddler dolls that were popular at the time. This was a doll with an adult body. During a family trip to Switzerland, Ruth Handler saw the German made Bild Lilli doll in a Swiss shop and brought one. The Bild Lilli doll was a collector's item snd not intended for sale to children, however, Ruth Handler used it as the basis of her design for Barbie. Barbie Doll’s first boyfriend, Ken Doll, debuted two years after Barbie in 1961.

Ruth Handler on Barbie Doll

“Barbie has always represented that a woman has choices. Even in her early years, Barbie did not have to settle for only being Ken’s girlfriend or an inveterate shopper. She had the clothes, for example, to launch a career as a nurse, a stewardess, a nightclub singer. I believe the choices Barbie represents helped the doll catch on initially, not just with daughters - who would one day make up the first major wave of women in management and professionals – but also with mothers.” - Ruth Handler

Ruth Handler - Other Inventions

After fighting breast cancer and undergoing a mastectomy in 1970 Ruth Handler, one of the creators of the Barbie Doll, surveyed the market for a suitable prosthetic breast. Disappointed in the options available, she set about designing a replacement breast that was more similar to a natural one. In 1975, Handler received a patent for Nearly Me, a prosthesis made of material close in weight and density to natural breasts.

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