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Top Toys - Inventor - Ruth Handler and the Barbie Doll Toy Invention

Updated on March 25, 2014

"My whole philosophy of Barbie was that through the doll, the little girl could be anything she wanted to be," Handler wrote in a 1994 autobiography. "Barbie always represented the fact that a woman has choices."

Women Inventor Ruth Handler Patented Barbie
Women Inventor Ruth Handler Patented Barbie | Source

1959 First Ever BarbieCommercial

2008 Barbie Tropical Beach Dolls TV Ad - Surfs Up!


Barbie Dolls From Around the World Designers and Fitness and More!

Carolina Herrera Barbie Doll
Carolina Herrera Barbie Doll | Source
Plantation Belle Porcelain Barbie Doll
Plantation Belle Porcelain Barbie Doll | Source
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Indian Barbie Doll in Traditional Dress | Source
Asian Barbie in Traditional Dress
Asian Barbie in Traditional Dress
Astronaut Barbie from
Astronaut Barbie from
Barbie Doll Gym/Workout Equipment
Barbie Doll Gym/Workout Equipment
Barbie Doll with Inventor Ruth Handler
Barbie Doll with Inventor Ruth Handler

Ruth Handler, who was born Ruth Mosko, on November 14th 1916 was the inventor and the mother of the world famous modern "toy" called the "Barbie Doll". Ruth sadly left us on April 27th, 2002 at age 85 but she left a wonderful toy for every little girl, a dream that lives on inside and with all us even today!

Courageous Woman Inventor

Barbie is the world's most popular toy - of all time! And the woman behind the doll, Ruth Handler was both a genius and a very courageous woman. Ruth Handler had the courage and convictions to believe in her dream. A large part of the Barbie Doll mystique is essentially a dream. Barbie represents everything we want to be or become. And the costumes showcase our many different dreams. But sharing our dreams via Barbie was a tough road for Ruth Handler. It was because Ruth knew her dream would be shared that she risked her successful company. She placed a bet - a big bet and won! And in turn the whole world won - our world is better because children across the world share the love of Barbie. We all share the dream.

The Handler Family

The doll was introduced in 1959 and named after Ruth Handler's real life daughter named Barbie. Ruth Handler was a pioneer business women before she became an inventor. She was instrumental in marketing her husbands designs and creations.

Her husband, Issadore Elliot Handler was her high school sweetheart.

Ruth Handler started out as a secretary for Paramount Studies, Hollywood,CA. Her husband Elliot studied industrial design at the Unversity of California, Los Angeles. The first entrepreneurial venture for Ruth and Elliot was giftware. Yes, like many inventors and entrepreneurs they started their first business in their garage! It was Ruth Handler's marketing expertise that grew the business.

The Mattel Name

The "Mattel" name was born from a partnership of Ruth husband - Elliott - the "el" part of the name and a business partner named Matt Mattson.

Ruth of course was the one who designed the combination of names and thus Mattel was born. From giftware, they expanded into picture frames and then doll house furniture. Elliot was the designer, Ruth was the marketing/sales professional. Eventually the company evolved into toys.

Two of their monumental successes in toys included a toy cap pistol and a child sized ukulele.

The First Ever Barbie Commercial

Barbie was shunned by the toy industry. The men in power didn't understand the concept. Ruth Handler reportedly took the entire net worth of Mattel, Inc. and launched an extensive advertisement campaign during the most popular children's show - The Mickey Mouse Club. Initially, the sales for Barbie didn't take off.

The commercial was launched in the spring, it wasn't until school was out that the demand for this new toy erupted. And erupted it did - finally Mattel could keep up with demand!

Ruth Handler's dream of bringing a toy doll to little girls everywhere so that they could dream was finally realized in the summer of 1959.

Similar Concept Doll Noted in Germany

Ruth Handler had the idea for a play doll many years before her family visited Europe in 1955.

It was on the family vacation that Ruth came across a German doll called "Lilli doll". Ruth quickly purchased several mainly because the doll was so closely associated with her dream toy - a doll to transcend the cut-out paper dolls.

The three-dimensional doll was designed to showcase various fashions - just as the paper dolls were so adept at displaying - only better - a tangible fashion show!

The Mountain Ruth Climbed In Order to Take Barbie Into Production

A year after their trip to Europe where she found and purchased the Lilli doll in Switzerland, the prototype Barbie doll was ready. It would take another 3 years to get the doll to market because of the mountains that Ruth would have to climb to overcome the objections to this new "toy".

And even after the introduction of this new toy - the Barbie Doll, it was headed for history never to become a part of our American culture or to be shared with the world. You see the American Toy Fair and ALL the purchasing executives didn't see the dream that Ruth knew was true.

The buyers, the purchasing professionals, simply would not buy into this new concept.

So Ruth took her dream directly to the little girls of the United States with the first television commercials.

The Mountain Top Remained A Long Climb

Even after the launch of the commercial, the sales were not meeting the needs of the company. The commercial launched in the spring and sales were lackluster to say the least.

The surprise came when in May and children were out of school, the demand for Barbie skyrocked. More than 350,000 dolls were sold that first year! The mountain top was finally reached!Ruth Handler was able to fully share her dream with the world!

Barbie is sold is over 150 countries around the world. Barbie made a fortune for Mattel not just with the doll but also with the outfits and accessories, doll houses, cars, pets and a complete ensemble of friends and family. Her other dolls included the now famous Ken, Skipper and later Midge and Christie and lesser known little sister Kelly.

Ruth Handler's Philosophy - Dream

The joy of Barbie was not just the fashions but also the dreams - the career dreams and goals from personal trainer to veterarian to even astronaut!

"My whole philosophy of Barbie was that through the doll, the little girl could be anything she wanted to be," Handler wrote in a 1994 autobiography. "Barbie always represented the fact that a woman has choices."

Ruth Handler created a dream for every little girl in the United States and around the world! She has united females by sharing a similar dream. And she created a toy company that would become one of the largest companies in the United States and sat proudly on the Fortune list of the 500 largest U.S. industrial companies.

Other memorable toys from Mattel included talking toys and Hot Wheels®. Sadly later in the life of Mattel Ruth Handler and her husband Elliot were forced out of the very company they built.The court case was similar in nature to Enron with fictitious reporting and deceptive practices.Amazingly or perhaps not surprisingly, Ruth remained dedicated during the court case and continued with invention and promotion of her breast forms. The court contended it was her way of making more money but IF you understood the drive of this woman - you would fully understand her creations were more about living her dream than just the pursuit of money. This woman was a visionary who was driven to see her visions be created and be given a reality.

Ruth's Invention to Help Those Struggling with Breast Cancer

Ruth continued her creativity and upon battling breast cancer, in 1976 developed a prosthesis or fake breast forms to help females stricken with breast cancer. The breast forms Handler named "Nearly Me®" and were developed from some of the same technology of the soft flesh-like skin she perfected on the Barbie Doll.

Ruth Looses Battle with Breast Cancer

Handler, who struggled with breast cancer and had a mastectomy in 1970, started her second career due to the disease. When she was unable to find a decent prosthetic breast, Handler created her own, called Nearly Me®, and formed a company to market it. The company earned more than $1 million in sales and was sold in 1991. Handler, who also co-founded the Mattel toy company, died at Century City Hospital in Los Angeles of complications from colon surgery she underwent. Ruth Handerl departed us on April 27, 2002. She is survived by her husband of 63 years, Elliot Handler, and their two children: Barbara and Ken. She was 85.

Ruth Handler's Dream Lives On - Barbie - We Girls Can Do Anything!

Ruth Handler's dream lives on - in a wonderful toy known around the world as Barbie. And the slogan - "We Girls Can Do Anything!" is a living tribute to a woman who climbed the mountains of denial and defeat and forged through to create and share her dream with us and with the world!

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    • GmaGoldie profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelly Kline Burnett 

      9 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      Dear Ann Nonymous,

      The mountains she had to climb to get the toy into production I find amazing. Thank you for stopping by.

    • Ann Nonymous profile image

      Ann Nonymous 

      9 years ago from Virginia

      Hmmm..I Never really stoppped to consider the history of "Barbie..." I know I read about it once but it's refreshing to hear it again! Great hub, Goldie!


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