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Ruth Handler
 Ceramic Sculpture   
24" x 20" x 5"

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Ruth Handler (1916-2002)

In the early 1960's Ruth Handler was President and then Chair of the Board of Mattel, one of the largest toy companies in the world. Holding a leadership position in a major U.S. Corporation was almost unheard of at that time (women were excluded from juries until 1963). Handler established the Barbie product line in 1959. She based Barbie on the German Bild Lilli doll for adults that she discovered while on vacation in Europe. This doll was sold in bars and tobacco shops and was referred to by some as a "sex toy" or a "sex doll." The Bild Lilli doll looked very similar to the early Barbie dolls. Barbie became the best selling toy in the world. If every Barbie doll was placed head to toe they would circle the world seven and a half times. Handler named the doll after her daughter Barbara. The male Ken doll is named after her son.

In 1970, Handler was diagnosed with breast cancer and ultimately both of her breasts were removed. Despondent and plagued by business setbacks, she resigned from Mattel in 1978. In 1976 she started a new company called Nearly Me, to manufacture usable and attractive breast prosthetics. Before Nearly Me breast prosthetics were uncomfortable, not attractive and difficult to purchase.