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Barbie

The Jewish Woman Who Invented Barbie…and Prosthetic Breasts

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There is a lot we can write here about the Barbie doll–and the havoc she wreaks with our morals and home life–but her Jewish creator, Ruth Mosko Handler, was not content to merely rest on the laurels of her archetype bombshell.

After all, Ruth was a businesswoman, who started the toy company Mattel with her husband in 1939. They collaborated on the running of the company, making model airplanes and rubber-belt-driven toys like the Jack-in-the box in the early years.

READ: Why Does My Daughter’s Barbie Come With Sexy Lingerie?

In 1959 Ruth created Barbie; she gave the doll large breasts because she believed it was important for the self-esteem of girls to play with a doll that was anatomically representative of their (future) bodies. Flash forward to 1970: Ruth was diagnosed with
breast cancer, and by 1975 her medical struggles led to her loss of control over Mattel.

READ: Streetwalker Barbie Has Invaded My Home

Her illness, and her lack of satisfaction in finding prosthetic breasts, led her to create a new company called Nearly Me, which developed prosthetic breasts for cancer survivors. Her company helped thousands of women. In 1980 she told a reporter, “When I conceived Barbie, I believed it was important to a little girl’s self-esteem to play with a doll that has breasts. Now I find it even more important to return that self-esteem to women who have lost theirs.”

Read more on Ruth Mosko Hander.

This post is the second in a four-part series with the Jewish Women’s Archive, commemorating women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) for Jewish American Heritage Month. Every Monday in May you can look forward to a new post about a Jewish woman who helped to lay the groundwork for women in science today.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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