TO CHILDREN: the victories of the creator of the Barbie doll
Every second three Barbie dolls are sold in the world. According to experts, the toy is in the top 20 most popular products in the world. Barbie is bought in 150 countries. Now it is hard to believe that the first Barbie doll appeared in 1959.
This brainchild of Ruth Handler, a girl from a Jewish family who immigrated to the U.S. from Poland. Over the years, the plastic beauty only grew younger and changed in tune with the spirit of the times. She has not squandered her popularity one bit.
BEING A WOMAN
Ruth Handler’s story of success and business is a story of overcoming, as she said. The first reason is that she was a woman, and her business acumen was not taken seriously in those years.
But she succeeded in becoming a businesswoman, one of the richest women in U.S. history, stepping into big business from mere stenographers. Ruth turned a modest workshop into a huge Mattel toy empire, chief among which was the Barbie doll – the dream of almost all girls in the world.
Ruth Handler was the tenth child in a poor family. She was born on November 4th, 1916 in Denver, Colorado. The little girl was raised by her sister Sarah, who held with her husband drug store – a store of necessities on the road, medications and sundries.
Her sister, who was more active in her business than her husband, but always remained in his shadow, motivated Ruth to look for a “non-feminine” occupation. So the future “mother” of the Barbie doll decided not to devote her life to her husband and pots and pans, and went to get an education to find a job. It was a very brave decision in the ’30s.
“When we started the business, I was the only woman in charge of the company”, Ruth Handler would later share. – I was swimming in a sea of men. I had to work hard to be seen as a boss and a leader”.
After graduating from college, Ruth Handler married her high school buddy, Elliot Handler. She enthusiastically supported her spouse’s decision to start her own business. The young wife took a job as a secretary at Paramount Film Studios, working, proving that she was the best at what she did.
When her husband decided to start making picture frames and handmade souvenirs in a tiny studio called Mattel, Ruth Handler also managed to sell his goods.
On her way back to the studio, which was filled with pieces of wood, she got to thinking and suggested making doll’s furniture out of the blocks for children’s games. Pretty soon this furniture was selling better than her husband’s souvenirs.
When their first child, daughter Barbara, grew up, the little girl was given dolls. But Ruth noticed that her daughter was more eager to play with “real” dolls – pictures of model photographers cut out of fashion magazines. She wanted more realistic toys.
“I thought: such toys definitely do not contribute to the development of girls’ self-esteem! A doll like that has no breasts at all. And Barbie could be dressed up in gorgeous outfits and combed and put in a toy house”, Ruth Handler would later say.
She spent 13 years convincing her husband to create a doll – an exact copy of a young girl, with adult forms, but he brushed her off, considering the idea stupid and even immoral.
DO NOT GIVE UP
One day on vacation in Switzerland in a pub, Ruth Handler saw an unusual doll. Lilly, a blonde, frankly shapely doll, was bought by men to go with a shot of liquor when they wanted to placate and please the wife who stayed at home. The doll looked nothing like a Barbie, but like a pin-up girl from the army posters.
Ruth was so fired up that she took not only Lilly (the doll) to America, but also the right to manufacture her. Mattel’s designers had nowhere to go. Elliott’s husband also gave in. And so they all together set about designing a plastic Barbie .
When the first batch was ready, Mattel invited professional testers – a hundred little girls and their mothers. Then the women said the toy was too vulgar and could harm the psyche of their daughters. But all the girls, without exception, said that it was impossible to imagine a prettier doll.
Ruth Handler decided to trust the children. But she soon experienced her first disappointment. At the New York Children’s Fair in 1959, Barbie was not appreciated. Wholesalers of children’s toys did not buy a single copy of the shapely beauty, deciding that parents certainly would not buy it.
KNOCKING ON DOORS
But the enterprising Ruth wasn’t upset. She decided to promote Barbie on local television. In between cartoons, the kids saw a long-legged doll in an elegant striped leotard and sandals with high heels. And parents had to get their wallets out.
Soon Mattel was just processing orders for Barbie. The dolls cost $3, but were sold in batches. Ruth Handler was in charge of all the processes.
Biographer Robin Gerber, author of Barbie and Ruth, wrote of her: “She watched everything, knew every one of the 600 employees by name, was always present in person when quality control was done.
She and Elliott had an unusual open hiring policy for the time. All that mattered to them was talent. In 1951 there were more women and black people working at the Mattel factory than anywhere else.
In the first ten years, Barbie dolls sold for nearly half a billion dollars. Today about 1 million of these beautiful dolls are sold in the world each week.
Ruth Handler became the first woman vice president of the Toy Manufacturers Association, has been named the best woman in business many times over the years, has beaten breast cancer, has denied corruption charges and has been appointed to the President’s Business Advisory Council of the United States.
“Don’t cling to what you’ve lost, no matter how great the loss”, Ruth Handler philosophically noted. – Find something else to do. I had many nightmares, but I always found the strength to get up and move on”.