The Inventor Of Barbie : Ruth Handler, The Daughter Of Russian Jewish Immigrants

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The inventor of Barbie was Ruth Handler, the daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants who was also the president of Mattel. Ruth observed that when her daughter plays with infant dolls, she pretended to be the doll’s mother, and when playing with paper dolls, she liked to assign them adult roles as if they were real humans. When she suggested creating adult dolls to her husband Elliot, the co-founder of Mattel, he and other coworkers thought it was a poor idea that would never sell, and declined. However whilst visiting Germany in 1956 she came across an adult doll ‘Lilli’ which was marketed for adults, and brought back three of them: one for herself, one for her daughter, and one for the company. Mattel loved it, bought off the rights from the Lilli doll, and released the first Barbie doll at an international toy show in NYC March 9th 1959, now considered her birthday. Barbie, and later Barbie’s boyfriend the ‘Ken doll’ are named after Ruth’s children Kenneth and Barbara.
Ruth wanted Barbie to be a serve as a role model and be symbol of empowerment for young women. She observed that baby-dolls only let children imagine themselves in the role of the baby’s mother, and revolutionized the objectives of playtime by creating a doll who can do so much more. She recognized that “little girls want to be big girls” and that children play reflects their fantasies of how they want to grow up. The marketing slogan was “Girls Can Do Anything”. This reflects the era of post World War Two
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