Businesswoman, Inventor. She is remembered for her role in creating and marketing "The Barbie Doll". Born Ruth Marianna Mosko in Denver, Colorado, the youngest of 10 children, her Jewish parents immigrated to the US from Poland prior to 1910. After marrying her high school boyfriend, Elliot Handler, they moved to Los Angeles, California in 1938 where he started a furniture business using two newfound types of plastics, Lucite and Plexiglas, and she worked as the sales representative. During World War II her husband and his business partner Harold "Matt" Matson formed a small company to manufacture picture frames, calling it "Mattel" by combining part of their names ("Matt" and "Elliot"). Later, they began using scraps from the manufacturing process to make dollhouse furniture, which proved to be more profitable than the picture frames, and they decided to concentrate on toy manufacturing. The company's first big-seller was the "Uke-a-doodle", a toy ukulele, in 1947 and they followed it with producing toy guns based on popular western television shows. While She observing her daughter Barbara playing with paper dolls, she noticed the limitations of the paper dolls, including how the paper clothing failed to attach well. She wanted to produce a three-dimensional plastic "paper doll" with an adult body and a wardrobe of fabric clothing. However, husband and his business partner thought parents would not buy their children a doll with a voluptuous figure. While vacationing in Europe, she saw the German Bild Lilli doll (which was not a children's toy, but rather an adult gag gift) in a Swiss shop and brought it home. The Lilli doll was a representation of the same concept she had been trying to sell to other Mattel executives. she reworked the design of the doll and named her Barbie after her daughter. In March 1959 the Barbie debuted at the New York toy fair but was not an immediate success. After Walt Disney introduced "The Mickey Mouse Club" children's television show, Mattel invested heavily in television advertising. The television commercials for the Barbie doll paid off and Barbie rocketed Mattel to fame and fortune, becoming one of their best-selling products, and elevated them to a Fortune 500 company. Subsequently, they would add a boyfriend for Barbie named Ken (after the Handlers' son), and many other "friends and family" to Barbie's world. In 1970 she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a modified radical mastectomy, which was often used at the time to combat the disease, and because of difficulties in finding a good breast prosthesis, she decided to make her own. She founded a company, Ruthton Corp., formed by her and Peyton Massey, which manufactured a more realistic version of a woman's breast, called "Nearly Me". In the 1980s she became involved in the project Barbie and the Rockers and was credited as a writer of the 1987 film "Barbie and the Rockers: Out of this World." In 1997 she was inducted into the Junior Achievement US Business Hall of Fame. She died at the age of 85.
Bio by: William Bjornstad