Händler, Ruth

Alternative names
Birth 1916-11-04
Death 2002-04-27

Biographical notes:

Businesswoman and creator of Barbie, Ruth (Mosko) Handler (1916-2002) was the youngest of ten children born to Polish-Jewish immigrants who settled in Denver, Colo. She moved to southern California and married Elliot Handler, her high school sweetheart, in 1938. They formed two companies: Elliot Handler Plastics (1939-1942) to manufacture novelty goods designed by Elliot and marketed by Ruth Handler, and Elzac (1942-1944), manufacturing costume jewelry. In 1945, with their partner Harold "Matt" Matson, they incorporated Mattel, Inc., the toy company that sold doll furniture, musical toys, and a variety of burp guns, western pistols, and model rifles. In 1959 Ruth Handler created Barbie after noticing her daughter liked playing with paper cutout dolls of teenagers and career women. This was followed by Ken in 1961. A talking doll, Chatty Cathy, and Hot Wheels, introduced in 1968, made Mattel, Inc., the dominant toy company world wide. By the end of the 1960s Mattel had acquired non-toy companies and had plants in many countries, and Ruth Handler, president of the company, served many national business organizations, including the Advisory Committee on the Economic Role of Women, and the U.S. National Business Council for Consumer Affairs. Poor accounting, unwise product decisions, and bad luck led to unexpected losses in 1972 and 1973. An investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission held the Handlers responsible and they were forced out of the company in 1975.

In 1978, Ruth Handler was indicted for mail fraud, false reporting, and conspiracy to which she pleaded no contest. She was sentenced to 500 hours of community service for five years. During this period, following a mastectomy, she began to campaign for increased public awareness of cancer. Unable to find a decent prosthetic breast, Handler created her own, called Nearly Me, and formed a company, Ruthton Corp., to market it. Handler died in April 2002 in Los Angeles at the age of 85.

From the description of Papers, 1931-2002 (inclusive). (Harvard University). WorldCat record id: 232009115


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Ark ID:


  • Jewish women
  • Barbie dolls
  • Prothesis industry
  • Breast--Cancer--Patients
  • Dolls
  • Inventions
  • Businesswomen
  • Toys
  • Women-owned business enterprises
  • Dollmakers
  • Toy makers
  • Women inventors


not available for this record


  • United States (as recorded)
  • Los Angeles (Calif.) (as recorded)