In 1959 the world of toys was changed forever by a woman under 12 inches tall, Barbie. Barbie was a pioneer in a time when baby dolls with cubby, rosey cheeks dominated the market.
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It is now estimated that over a billion Barbie dolls have been sold worldwide in over 150 countries (Wikipedia, “Barbie”). M. G. Lord, author of "Forever Barbie: The Unauthorized Biography of a Living Doll," called Barbie the most potent icon of American culture of the late 20th century. She's an archetypal female figure, she's something upon which little girls project their idealized selves. For most baby boomers, she has the same iconic resonance as any female saints, although without the same religious significance. Lord, Forever Barbie) Behind this icon of pop culture was a woman by the name of Ruth Handler.
Ruth and her husband, Isador “Elliot” Handler founded Mattel in 1942. But it wasn’t until Ruth’s revelational busty figured, blue eyed, platinum blonde came on to the scene, that business really started booming.Handler’s inspiration came from watching her young daughter play. Barbra, whom Barbie was named after, showed little interest in playing with her baby dolls. Instead she preferred to dress up her adult-like cut out paper dolls. Every little girl needed a doll through which to project herself into her dream of the future,” Handler said, in a 1977 interview with The New York Times. “If she was going to do role playing of what she would be like when she was 16 or 17, it was a little stupid to play with a doll that had a flat chest.
So I gave it beautiful breasts. ” Barbie has undergone a lot of changes over the years and has managed to keep up with current trends in hairstyles, makeup and clothing. She has been a reflection of the history of fashion since her introduction to the toy market.The book “Forever Barbie: The Unauthorized Biography of a Real Doll,” discusses Barbie and her attire. Early outfits included “Friday Night Date” and “Sorority Meeting. ” In years to follow, Barbie sported a Jacqueline Kennedy hairdoo and during the civil rights movement, Mattel created Barbie’s first black friend, “Colored Francie. ” There have been many critics along the way, commenting on Barbies scientifically impossible body and “questionable portrayal of intelligence” (Kershaw, The New York Times).
But as I and many others see it, Barbie has enhanced girl’s self-image and encouraged them to reach for stars and expanded their sense of potential. Over the past 50 years, Barbie has had vast and numerous careers, from a surgeon to a gymnast to an astronaut. Ruth Handler and Barbie gave little girls all over the world the inspiration to dream of what they could one day aspire to be. Not only did Handler create a revolutionary doll with breasts, she also invented the worlds very first prosthetic breast (Ladies Home Journal Books).In 1970, Ruth was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to have a mastectomy. At the time women were using lumpy socks and rolled up pantyhose to try to help resemble what they had lost in the surgery. Ruth saw this as unacceptable according to Veronica Horwell of the Guardian.
With the help of a craftsman named Peyton Masses, Handler designed a line of realistic artificial breasts made from foam and silicon. She called her new product “Nearly Me” and formed the Ruthton Corporation to sell it (Horwell, Ruth Handler). Handler was intent on demystifying what was a taboo subject in the 1970’s.She became an outspoken advocate for early detection of breast cancer and offered her prosthetics as a way for women to feel good about themselves again. Handler’s “Nearly Me” was a great success and counting the former first lady Betty Ford among her numerous customers, she sold the company in 1991. Handler has been quoted saying many many times that she did not make a lot of money in it, but she rebuilt her self-esteem and hoped that she did the same for others. Ruth Handler has changed the lives of women young and old.
She gave us all hope for the future through plastic and silicon. I think Ruth said it best in her autobiography, “Dream Doll: The Ruth Handler Story. ” She writes “ My whole philosophy of Barbie was that through the doll, the little girl could be anything she wanted to be. Barbie always represented the face that women had choices. ” I think Ruth Handler and Barbie accomplished exactly that!Works Cited "Barbie. " Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
22 July 2004. Web. 27 November. 2010. Horwell, Veronica. “Ruth Handler: Creator of the Doll Whose Changing Style Defined Genera-tions of Young Women. ” The Guardian.
02 May 2002. Kershaw, Sarah. “Ruth Handler, Whose Barbie Gave Dolls Curves. ” The New York Times. 29 April 2002. Ladies’ Home Journal Books. 100 Most Important Women of the 20th Century.
Des Moines, Iowa: Meredith Corporation, 1998. Lord, M. G. Forever Barbie: The Unauthorized Biography of a Living Doll. New York: William Morrow and Company, 1994. Ticona-Vergaray, Evelyn. “Barbies 50 years of Beauty and Controversy.
” United Press International University. 08 November 2009. Web
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