Born: 9 March 1959
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California
Best known as: That skinny blonde doll created by Mattel in 1959
The Barbie doll was created by Ruth Handler for the Mattel company in 1959. Handler and her husband, Elliot, founded the company with partner Harold "Matt" Matson in 1942. Ruth, inspired by dolls she'd seen on a trip to Europe, and from watching her own daughter, Barbara, created an adult doll for children. Twelve inches high and plastic, the new "Barbie" doll and her fashionable and separately-sold clothing were such a hit that Mattel became a publicly-owned company in 1960. New versions of the toy mirrored fashion trends over the years, and Barbie was the center of a universe that included a benign boyfriend (Ken), occasional siblings (Skipper, Todd, Stacie, et al), pets (too many to name, including dogs, horses, cats and a parrot), cars, boats, planes and houses. Special versions of Barbie included scientists, disco dancers, fashion models, astronauts, rock stars and lifeguards. By the 1980s the doll's force as a collectible was such that Mattel began making versions of Barbie specifically for the collectors' market. Critics of the doll say it presents an unrealistic body image for girls, pointing to Barbie's large bosom, slim waist, long legs, white skin and blonde tresses. Fans say Barbie encourages young girls -- and boys -- by giving them aspirations to be scientists, disco dancers, fashion models, astronauts, rock stars or lifeguards. Despite the ongoing debate over Barbie's impact on American culture, the doll remains one of the best-known and best-selling dolls on the market.
Extra credit: The Ken doll is named after Ruth and Elliot Handler's other child: a son, Ken... Ruth Handler was born on 4 November 1916 in Denver, Colorado. She was president of Mattel until 1973, and died on 27 April 2002... According to Mattel lore, Barbie's full name is Barbie Millicent Roberts. A press release from 2009 said, in part, "Barbie doll -- Barbie Millicent Roberts -- was 'born' on March 9, 1959, in (fictional) Willows, Wisconsin." March 9th of 1959 was the date that the doll was first introduced at the annual New York Toy Fair.
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