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Sunday, 28 April, 2002, 10:56 GMT 11:56 UK
Barbie doll creator dies
Barbie dolls
Handler named the doll after her daughter
Ruth Handler, creator of the world famous Barbie doll, has died in Los Angeles, California. She was 85.

My whole philosophy of Barbie was that through the doll, the little girl could be anything she wanted to be

Ruth Handler
Handler, who named the doll after her daughter Barbara, also co-founded the doll's manufacturing company Mattel.

Her husband told the Los Angeles Times that she died in Century City hospital from complications after operation three months ago for colon cancer.

Handler, one of 10 children born to a Polish immigrant family in Denver, Colorado, created Mattel with her husband, initially as a company selling household items.

Huge success

Handler created Barbie after noting that her young daughter preferred to play with cut-out pictures of adult fashion models than toy babies.

Ruth Handler
Handler: Barbie represented fact that "a woman had choices"

She later diversified the range to include Barbie's boyfriend Ken, named after her son who died of a brain tumour in 1994, a little sister named Skipper and other characters who were named after her grandchildren.

And in response to criticism of the blue-eyed, blonde-haired doll, later versions took into account different ethnicities and styles.

Launched into the toy market in 1959 in New York City, the doll with the anatomically improbable frame became an instant success, going on to sell more than one billion in 150 countries, the Associated Press news agency reported.

In her 1994 autobiography, Handler responded to criticism of the doll by feminists who felt the doll conformed to stereotyped views of women.

"My whole philosophy of Barbie was that through the doll, the little girl could be anything she wanted to be," she said.

"Barbie always represented the fact that a woman has choices."

Second career

Handler's career hit a downturn in the late 1970s, when she and her husband were forced out of the company, and in 1978 she was convicted for mail fraud, fined, and ordered to perform community service.

However following a mastectomy she began to campaign for cancer awareness, which led to a second career.

Forming a company called Nearly Me, she created a prosthetic breast, and one of her first customers was former First Lady Betty Ford after her mastectomy.

It went on to create a healthy profit and was later sold for $1 million.

The BBC's Jane Bennett-Powell
"Barbie made a fortune for Mattel"
What was your favourite childhood toy?



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See also:

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Muslim dolls tackle 'wanton' Barbie
20 Feb 01 | Entertainment
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08 Mar 99 | Entertainment
Barbie: Sparkling at 40
09 Sep 01 | Arts
Barbie goes to the Ballet
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