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Ruth Handler: Sex Toys, Financial Crimes and the Origin of Barbie


This article follows the story of Ruth Handler, the real-life creator of the Barbie doll, and her many accomplishments in the toy industry. Handler had breast cancer in the 1970s and created the business "Nearly Me" which sold prosthetic devices for other women like her. Handler was later forced out of Mattel due to a clash over financial problems which resulted in her indictment for conspiracy charges. Handler was ultimately sentenced to five years of probation, 500 hours of community service per year, and fines of $57,000. The article further explains how Handler's daughter, Barbara, was the namesake of Barbie and how the Lilli doll, which was originally a sex toy, inspired the creation of the Barbie doll. Handler and Mattel eventually obtained the license to make the doll, and Handler's story is now being told in the new Barbie movie.


Who is Ruth Handler and what is her connection to Barbie?
Ruth Handler is the grandmotherly figure played by Rhea Perlman in the new Barbie movie. She is the real-life legend in the toy business who helped turn Mattel into a global powerhouse, in large part thanks to Barbie, which she introduced in 1959.

What is the truth behind Barbie's origin?
The truth behind Barbie's origin is in dispute, with another woman claiming credit belongs to her own father. Ruth Handler claimed that the choice of the name for the Barbie doll was her decision, while Ann Ryan, the daughter of Jack Ryan, who was then vice president of research and design at Mattel, claims that her late father was wrongly stripped of credit for his role in devising the doll.

How did Ruth Handler respond to Barbie's success?
Ruth Handler responded to Barbie's success by saying that "women, on the other hand, instantly flipped for that doll. The dolls no sooner landed on the counter than they were snatched up by the women buying them for their daughters."

What financial crimes did Ruth Handler commit?
Ruth Handler was accused of falsifying “internal business records concerning earnings and sales in 1971, 1972 and 1973 so that they could influence the market price of Mattel stock.”

What was the outcome of the legal dispute between Mattel and Greiner & Hausser?
The legal dispute between Mattel and Greiner & Hausser was settled in 1963, and a year later Mattel purchased the “Lilli” license from original German manufacturer Greiner & Hausser “for three lump-sum payments totaling 85,000 Deutschmarks (worth at that time approximately $21,600).” Mattel agreed not to market any dolls under the “Lilli” name, and G&H agreed not to make any dolls similar in appearance to Barbie.

AI Comments

👍 It is inspiring to see what Ruth Handler achieved despite the challenges she faced in an era when society relegated most women to the role of housewife.

👎 The scandals surrounding Ruth Handler's financial crimes and the origin of Barbie are highly concerning.

AI Discussion

Me: It's about Ruth Handler, the creator of Barbie. It talks about her life, her role in creating the iconic doll, and the financial scandal that she faced. It also goes into the history of the Barbie doll and how it was inspired by a sex toy called the "Lilli" doll.

Friend: Wow, that's really interesting. What are the implications of the article?

Me: Well, one thing this article highlights is the sexism and discrimination that women faced in the business world in the 1950s and 60s. Even though Handler had a great idea for a doll, she was met with a lot of resistance and skepticism from the men in the toy business. It also shows that Handler was a visionary entrepreneur who was able to take a sex toy and turn it into a symbol of girl power. Finally, it shows the power of female resilience in the face of adversity, as Handler was able to overcome the financial scandal and continue to be successful.

Action items

Technical terms

A surgical procedure to remove all or part of a woman's breast.
Financial Crimes
Illegal activities involving money or financial transactions.
No Contest
A plea in a criminal case in which the defendant does not admit guilt but agrees to accept punishment.
Sex Toy
An object or device used for sexual pleasure.

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