Inventors are inspirational. Ruth Handler was an inventor and businesswoman. She was involved with the founding of multiple companies. She served as the president of Mattel Inc., the toy manufacturer. She is known for inventing the Barbie doll.
Ruth Marianna Mosko was born on November 4, 1916 in Denver, Colorado. She was the youngest of ten children and worked in the drugstore her parents owned. After high school, at nineteen, she moved to Hollywood, California and worked as a secretary at Paramount Studios. Her high school boyfriend, Elliot Handler, joined her in California for awhile before they both moved back to Denver. They got married in 1938. They had two children and moved back to California. She returned to work at Paramount, before leaving to work with her husband who was designing and making household furniture and accessories. They formed their first company, Elzac, with a partner. Ruth Handler worked on marketing and sales. They later sold their share of that company. In 1945, they started Mattel Creations with Harold “Matt” Matson. They began making dollhouse furniture. They began making toys next. Matson left the company. In 1955, the company began the first toy television advertising campaign during The Mickey Mouse Club.
Two important things happened with the family. One, Ruth observed her daughter and her friends playing with paper dolls. They were pretending the dolls were grownup, but their play was limited because of the dolls construction. Two, the family took a vacation to Europe and came across a doll, Bild Lilli doll, made for adult parties. Ruth was inspired and used this doll as a model to design a doll for young girls. She named her doll Barbie after her daughter Barbara. In 1959, Barbie was debuted at the New York toy fair. Advertising Barbie on television paid off. Sales soared. Clothing was sold separately. Mattel went on to sell Ken, named after Ruth’s son Kenneth, other dolls and accessories.
In 1970, Ruth was diagnosed with breast cancer. Following a mastectomy, she had trouble finding a good breast prosthesis, and decided to make one. She and Peyton Massey manufactured “Nearly Me”, and founded Ruthton Corporation. She stayed involved with Mattel. In 1987, she was credited as a writer of the film Barbie and the Rockers: Out of the World. In 1997, Ruth Handler was inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame.
Ruth Handler died April 27, 2002 following surgery for colon cancer. Her husband Elliot lived another nine years. Ruth Handler has left a legacy as a woman, mother, survivor, and an inventor. Be inspired! Have a bright day!