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Ruth Handler

by Cicely from Jakarta

‘Ruth Handler’ the inventor of Barbie
Ruth Handler
Ruth Handler

Ruth Handler was born in November, 4, 1916 in Denver, Colorado. She was the youngest of 10 children of Polish immigrants who settled in Denver. Her father was a blacksmith, and her mother was illiterate when she arrived in United States. She married with her high-school boyfriend, Elliot Handler in 1938.

At first, her husband made house-wares item such as bowls, mirrors, and clocks out of plastic, and made them in his garage to earn money. The sales boomed within a few years.

In 1942 he collaborated with another industrial designer, Harold Mattson, to launch a manufacturing picture frames business. Later they launched a sideline making dollhouse furniture. The company turned out very profitable; therefore they specialized in making toys. They called their company ‘Mattel’, Matt was for ‘Mattson’ and El is for ‘Elliot’.

Their daughter, Barbara was fascinated with paper dolls of teenagers and career women, and began to wonder if 3 dimensional versions of the adult paper figures would have appeal. Ruth decided to have a life-like doll which had breasts. Ruth made the dream come true, and made its debut in 1959 American Toy Fair in New York. It was then named ‘Barbie Teen-age Fashion Model’ which had a girl next door ponytail, black and white striped bathing suit and tiny feet that fit into open toed heels. For the first year, Mattel sold more than 350,000 dolls.

The sale of Barbie was increasing up to $100,000,000 by the early 1960. Mattel also produced all kinds of wardrobe and accessories for the dolls. Soon, Mattel widened various kinds of Barbie’s friends and family dolls, for example they made a male doll named Ken, and other girls named, Midge, Skipper and Christie as Barbie’s friends, from 1961-1969. In 1981 came the first black Barbie.

From her 1994 autobiography, she wrote that her philosophy of Barbie was that through the doll, the little girl could be anything she wanted to be, and Barbie always represented the fact that women have a choice.

In 1970 she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy. In order to restore her appearance to its pre-mastectomy, she produced a prosthetic breast made of liquid silicone enclosed in polyurethane and had a rigid foam backing. Her goal was to make an artificial breast so real "that a woman could wear a regular brassiere and blouse, stick her chest out and be proud." She also invited the breast-cancer patients to try her product. In 1980, the sales of artificial breasts had surpassed $1,000,000. However, she sold the company in 1991. Ruth Handler died in April 27, 2002 in Los Angeles, California after a long fight against cancer.

The reason that I chose the Barbie inventor as my hero is because, she can create such a beautiful doll in which through the doll, a girl could be anything she wanted to be. Her philosophy that a woman has choices is similar to my opinion. Her effort to help all women which have breast cancer makes me so admire her and inspired me to do my best in order to full-fill my dream and to help other people.

Page created on 11/4/2010 12:59:32 PM

Last edited 11/4/2010 12:59:32 PM

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Related Links

Ruth Handler - Nearly Me