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Ruth Mosko Handler

Ruth Mosko Handler is best known as the inventor of the Barbie doll, but her most important work may be her prosthetics for survivors of breast cancer. Handler learned how to run a business growing up working in her sister’s drugstore. She and her husband, Elliot, started the toy company Mattel in their garage in 1939, making model airplanes and dollhouse furniture before creating a series of rubber-belt driven toys like the Jack-in-the-Box and toy guns. Both husband and wife designed various toys and negotiated contracts, running the company collaboratively. In 1959, Handler created the Barbie doll, which she named after her daughter and which proved to be the most popular doll in America, soon followed by the Ken doll, named after her son. Handler’s struggles with cancer in 1970 led to her losing control of the business, and she was forced out in 1975. However, her illness led her to create a new company, Nearly Me, which developed prosthetic breasts for cancer survivors in the hopes of strengthening their self-esteem.

Date of Birth
Place of Birth
Denver, Colorado
Date of Death
April 27, 2002

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Ruth Mosko Handler." (Viewed on January 18, 2018) <>.


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