Surprising Facts About The History Of Barbie

How much do you know about the history of the Barbie doll? Perhaps you and your friends played with these iconic and ever-changing dolls when you were children. MyHeritage has put together a blog post with some surprising things about Barbie.

The new Barbie movie is making a huge splash in theaters, with many finding it a surprising and refreshing take on the doll. Love it or hate it, My Heritage wrote, there’s no denying that the Barbie doll has had a huge cultural impact since it first hit the market in 1959.

Barbie and Ken are actually brother and sister

Ruth Handler, the creator of the Barbie doll, rightly referred to herself as “Barbie’s mom.” Barbie is named after Handler’s daughter, Barbara Joyce Handler (born 1941). Barbie’s eternal boyfriend, Ken, is named after Barbara’s baby brother – Handler’s son – Kenneth Robert Handler (born 1944).

Barbie’s parents, Ruth and Elliott Handler, were the founders of the giant toy company Mattel

Established in 1945, Mattel’s first products were picture frames and then dollhouse furniture made from picture frame scraps. The name “Mattel” is a combination of the last name of Harold Matson, a temporary partner of the Handlers, and of Elliot Handler’s first name. 

According to MyHeritage, “Barbie’s mom” was totally left out, despite being the co-founder and the president of the company.

Barbie’s parents were high school sweethearts, together since they were 16

Ruth Marianna Mosko (Moskowitz, 1916-2002) was the youngest of 10 children born to Jewish Polish immigrant who settled in Denver, Colorado. Isadore Elliot Handler (1916-2011) was born in Chicago to Jewish Russian immigrants who later moved to Denver. The two married in 1938 and moved to California. This 1940 U.S. census record shows that Elliot was working 18 hours a week as a designer, while Ruth worked 40 hours a week as a secretary at Paramount Pictures, the film production company.

Barbie became a popular girls name in the U.S. (only) during the 1960s

Soon after the doll’s debut in 1959, American parents started naming their daughters Barbie. According to official data from the U.S. Social Security Administration, Barbie was among the top 1000 most popular girls’ names between 1961 to 1968, with the highest peak in 1964. Before 1960 and after 1969 the name Barbie didn’t alter in the top 1000, if at all.

Barbie was subject to harsh criticism from women’s organizations, but her “mom” was unfazed

Beginning in the 1970’s alongside significant social upheavals and the rise of second-wave feminism, Barbie became a focal point for critical debates about unrealistic body image, gender roles, and consumerism. The doll’s physique was pointed out to be unrealistic and unattainable, if translated to human proportions; her persona was fashion-focused, super privileged, and boy-crazy; and little girls who loved the doll were constantly encouraged to purchase new outfits, accessories, and playsets.

When addressing the issue in mid-1970, Ruth Handler clarified that “Barbie has no immediate plans to pin a women’s liberation button on her fake furs.”

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