Ruth’s Ageless Icon


An American icon celebrates her 52nd birthday this week.

Barbara Millicent Roberts was born on March 9, 1959, to George and Margaret Roberts of Willows, Wisconsin. After attending Willows High she migrated to New York where she also attended Manhattan International.

She is 5’9” tall with measurements of 39(!)–18–33, yet despite being stacked, she is still about 35 pounds underweight.

She owns a zoo’s worth of pets, and has acquired enough vehicles to make Jay Leno jealous.

She never married but had a long-term relationship with Ken Carson, which ended amicably in 2004.

After becoming a fashion model she has worked in a wide range of fields including flight attendant, commercial pilot, astronaut, and NASCAR driver.

But the most impressive achievement in Barbara’s long list of accomplishments is that she has been cloned over a billion times!

This fictional biography was created by the makers of Barbara, better known to the world as Barbie – the most successful doll in history.

Barbie was the brainchild of Ruth Handler, the wife of the co-founder of Mattel Corp., the El Segundo-based toy making titan. Ruth got the idea for a doll based on fashion models from watching her young daughter Barbara tire of cloth dolls and take more interest in fashion magazines as she got older.

She pitched the idea to her husband Elliot and his partner Matt Matson. The duo had earlier created Mattel to manufacture picture frames, but found toy manufacturing to be more profitable. The name Mattel was created by combining their first names.

The partners initially rejected the idea, but changed their minds after Ruth discovered the successful Bild Lilli doll on a trip to Germany, which was the embodiment of her concept. Mattel bought the rights to the doll, renamed her Barbie (after Ruth’s daughter – the Ken doll would later be named after her son), and introduced her at the American International Toy Fair in New York on March 9, 1959.

Mattel shipped 350,000 of the 11.5” plastic dolls during that year and estimates that over 1 billion have been sold worldwide since her debut.

In recent years the iconic toy has come under increased scrutiny because of Barbie’s disproportionate build. Her unrealistic shape has been blamed for causing young girls everything from loss of self-esteem to anorexia. (It has been suggested that if Barbie existed in the real world, she wouldn’t have enough body fat to ever menstruate.)

Ruth Handler became president of Mattel in 1967. In 1970 she developed breast cancer which led her to create a company that fashions prosthetic breasts for woman who have had mastectomies.

Ruth died in 1982 at the age of 85, but Barbie lives on. It’s estimated that for every second that ticks by, three people in the world still purchase one of Ruth’s iconic creations.

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About deadwrite

Freelance writer, film historian, taphophile View all posts by deadwrite

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