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Barbie and Ruth: The Story of the World's Most Famous Doll and the Woman Who Created Her

3.55  ·  Rating Details ·  484 Ratings  ·  83 Reviews
“Barbie and her creator, the sharp-elbowed gal who built the biggest toy company, have a story to tell.”


Barbie and Ruth by Ruth Gerber is the remarkable true story of the world’s most famous toy and the woman who created her. It is a fascinating account of how one visionary woman and her product changed an industry and sparked a lasting debate about women’s roles. At
ebook, 288 pages
Published March 24th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published January 1st 2009)
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More about Barbie's creator, Ruth Handler, than Barbie herself. Handler's story was interesting, though. While her husband, Elliott, was the face of Mattel, Ruth was the brains behind the operations. She was known as a hard-charging, no-holds-barred appraoch to business made her a pioneer. It's a shame her story isn't more well-known. I mean, who knew Barbie was invented by a woman or that the initial opposition to it was so fierce? And who knew that a woman was behind one of the largest compani ...more
Sandra Strange
I read this one at the same time I had barely finished the biography of Marie Curie and in the middle of the Steve Jobs biography. Though their stories differ, they don't. These three geniuses have so much in common: narrowly laser focused determination, obvious intelligence and a willingness to take credit for others' work with total self absorption and unswerving drive to achieve, whether it's scientific discovery or business success. This one traces the story of Ruth Handler, the force behind ...more
Gianna Robustiano
Barbie and Ruth by Robin Gerber

Barbie and Ruth is about a business women named Ruth Handler who founded Mattel, An American toy manufacturing industry and also the creator of the Barbie doll. Ruth wasn't like any normal women in the 1940's who stayed at home with their kids cooked and cleaned. She loved working, she was always working on the next best thing. Throughout the book it shows the successes and failures of Ruth.

Barbie and Ruth was very interesting, The book was filled with so much in
Apr 20, 2015 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I never thought I would read a book about Barbie dolls, but when Bookbub offered it for $2.00, I couldn't resist. This is an interesting history of the creation of the Barbie doll by Ruth Handler and how she couldn't market it with Mattel because they wouldn't accept a doll with breasts. She proved them wrong, however, and it became hugely successful. The story continues with Ruth Handler cooking the books and not reporting vast profits to the IRS. The back story is as interesting as the Barbie ...more
Feb 21, 2009 Heather rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dave got me this book for Valentines Day because he knows I have been a Barbie junkie all my life. So, the title is a bit of a misnomer since there is not much Barbie in it. Some stuff about her creation. It's really a biography of Ruth Handler and Mattel, the company she founded with her husband. It's a fast and fun read. Lots of juicy stuff. We all know she named Barbie after her daughter Barbara but did you know she was modeled on a sex doll sold in Europe? And did you know Ken was named for ...more
Feb 03, 2009 Sara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a really interesting look in to the pioneering businesswoman who invented Barbie. I just wish they had been a little more serious about whether or not the charges of insider trading and corruption were true.
Paige Peploe
Thought this book would be more about Barbie than Ruth, the woman who created her. Although interesting and honest, I felt like this book was missing something.
Marci Mayer Eisen
I enjoyed this book so much more than I expected. I kept thinking, "I didn't know that!" While not a deep memoir, this book definitely tells the entire Barbie story with highlights of the history of the modern toy industry. Ruth was a complicated person, but left her mark.
The story of Barbie and her creator (I had no idea a woman created Barbie) is an interesting and compelling story; however author Robin Gerber's "Barbie and Ruth: The Story of the World's Most Famous Doll and the Woman Who Created Her" telling of the life of Ruth Handler and the birth of Barbie is far from interesting or compelling. And, the book barely mentions the 'story of the world's most famous doll.' A more appropriate title would be, "The Story of Ruth Handler: The Woman behind Mattel."

Apr 25, 2015 Maura rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I always loved my Barbie dolls! Loved their clothes, loved to play all sorts of imaginative things with them, whether alone or with a group. I still have fond memories of major Barbie set-ups in my friend's garage/playroom, where we made elaborate houses and played out stories for days, building families and almost communities of dolls with our Barbies and any other small dolls at hand that were appropriately-sized. So I was very interested in reading this book.

It was only marginally about the a
Jul 16, 2009 Ed rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Career women, business students, entrpreneurs, toy industry people
Recommended to Ed by: Joe Cutcliffe
I was surprised at how interesting and well-written this book about Ruth Handler, the founder of Mattel Toy Company and the creator of the Barbie doll was. Having read and reviewed the disappointing [Book:Toy Monster], I was afraid this was going to be the polar opposite, nothing more than an adoring eulogy to an exceptional woman.

It is far more than that and far more even-handed than is usual in these types of biographies. Plus the writing is first-rate. It reads like a novel and as the friend
Sep 17, 2015 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ruth Handler is a lot like Barbie, there is a lot to hate and a lot to love. Like Barbie she is a fulfilment of a negative stereotype of women, the ballbuster businesswoman, who never really shows a capacity for deep reflection. On the other hand, she is exactly what she needed to be to be the pioneering businesswomen she was. As a woman of the Barbie generation and a mother of girls, my opinion of Barbie has flip-flopped many times over the years. I find myself similarly ambivalent about Ruth H ...more
Apr 11, 2011 Nicole rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011, book-club
Honestly, I don't think I would have ever picked up this book had it not been a Book Club pick and I'm not really sure why. I loved Barbie when I was younger; I had pretty much everything that Barbie could have and played with her (and her friends) all the time. I guess I just never even considered learning about how she was created.

Surprisingly, this book was actually extremely interesting. True Ruth Handler (Barbie's "mother") was a total b..., the book didn't really focus on Barbie that much
Meg Marie
Jul 30, 2010 Meg Marie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I feel like all of the women who hate on Barbie as a sexiest piece of plastic trash should learn the background story of her creator before they stick their noses up in the toy aisle. Barbie was designed by a woman who grew up in a poor, hardscrabble Chicago neighborhood, found the love of her life in her teens, and worked to create a doll that little girls would want to play with, because it allowed them to daydream about being grown women.

Not only did she build Mattel from the bottom up, but a
Dec 04, 2012 Antonia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: rwr
I found this book to be very eye-opening and informative of how the creator of Barbie, Ruth Handler, really came to her success. Before reading this book, I thought that before Barbie, Ruth didn't have any big enterprise or business. I was completely wrong. Ruth and her husband created the brand Mattel long before the idea of Barbie even popped into her head. Mattel was a business that created different kinds of toys, for example, a toy gun and ukelele. Eventually Ruth came up with the idea of B ...more
Jun 19, 2011 Peggy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Overall, this was a good biography. Sometimes the person being written about is more interesting than the book itself, but in this case, it was an equally interesting person with an equally interesting story. Ruth Handler would have made an interesting subject based on her rise within Corporate America alone. She co-created and was an executive at Mattel in the days when women didn't work and IF they did they were secretaries. It was an interesting twist that she was the driving force behind Bar ...more
Kristen Dunder
Apr 16, 2015 Kristen Dunder rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a fascinating account of Ruth Handler, the woman who started the Mattel corporation with her husband, Elliott, from virtually the ground up, and who also developed it's best-selling toy, the Barbie doll. Ruth had a gutsy, entrepreneurial spirit and was the brains and marketing genius behind Mattel, leaving her husband to handle the creative and technological side of the business. She could be stubborn and unapologetic at times, but had grit and determination which enabled her to take he ...more
Mar 03, 2010 Jessica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who played with Barbies
This is the fascinating story of Ruth Handler, the woman who created the Barbie doll and founded the Mattel toy company. Ruth was a trailblazer for women - she was business-minded, a working mother and ran her company the way she wanted to - all during the 1950's - 1970's. No matter what hardship came her way she was able to overcome it in her own way. After she was forced out of Mattel Ruth was able to use her business skills to start a new company that helped women who had had mastectomies - a ...more
Dec 03, 2016 Jen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating story about how Ruth Handler invented Barbie and, with her husband Elliot Handler, made Mattel into the top toy company. They were both children of immigrant Jewish families; he was the designer of many toys and she was the saleswoman and led Mattel.

Did you know that Barbie was a tough sell in 1959 because buyers thought she was too curvy and a bit scandalous, and that they thought little girls only wanted to be moms and play with baby dolls? Ruth created an adult doll so little girl
Gayle Francis Moffet
A thorough, deeply researched, and well-paced look at the life of Ruth Handler, the inventor of Barbie and the power behind Mattel for it's first 30 years. Gerber does a wonderful job painting Ruth as a full person, not allowing herself to get stranded in hero worship. We see Ruth with all her flaws, and we follow her career with Mattel up to the federal charges that got her ousted from the company. Ruth Handler was an amazing woman full of ideas, determination, and a great drive that was heavil ...more
I loved playing with Barbies growing up and still today don't mind taking a spin through the Barbie aisle today just to see the new designs. Reading about the early days of the lady and company behind it was enjoyable. Gerber did a great job condensing over 50 years of history into a highlights that were interesting. She also painted Ruth Handler in a pretty positive light while subtly alluding to the harsher sides of the truth.

At the end, I still adore Barbie and admire Ruth Handler for all th
Jan 01, 2010 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While the title is a misnomer (only about 1/3 of the book is actually about the creation/development and history of the Barbie doll) this is a fascinating look at the creation of the toy company Mattel (from the names of Ruth Handler's husband Elliot and their partner Matt Matson) who basically started out of a small garage and became a multi-million dollar company. Ruth was an extremely driven, shrewd businesswoman who lost control of Mattel due to accounting improprieties, suffered from breast ...more
May 30, 2011 Angie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The author, Robin Gerber, was not a fan of Ruth Handler, the inventor of the Barbie doll. Usually the author of a biography has a least some warm feelings for their subject. That did not appear to be the case here. Ruth was presented as a man-eating, cold, vindictive, and generally unappealing woman. I loved Barbie, heck I still love Barbie. If it was socially acceptable to play with dolls at 46 years old, I would have tons of Barbie stuff. I read a lot of biographies, but this one was a real le ...more
Dec 15, 2011 Jendi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
My friend bought me this book because I'm a Barbie collector. I expected more discussion of Barbie's cultural impact and the evolution of her image. Despite that disappointment, it was a good read, a well-organized biography of a pioneering businesswoman who deserves more attention from feminists. Handler revolutionized toy marketing (a mixed blessing, perhaps!) and then rebounded from breast cancer and a Martha Stewart-like stock scandal to create the first attractive and comfortable prostheses ...more
Pam Lindholm-levy
I read this book to try to compare Barbie and the American Girl dolls in their play potential, obviously not in looks and clothes. I came to the conclusion that while Mattel has made them both huge product extension toys, American Girl dolls provide an age appropriate toy with plenty of room for creative play.
This book is really more about the people who created Mattel than about Barbie specifically.
May 10, 2009 Cheryl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was great! It was very interesting. I expected it to be more about Barbie, but it was mostly about Ruth Handler (Barbie's creater and founder of Mattel) and Mattel. It was interesting to learn about the company and the toys that I played with when I was little. The writing was great; it was engaging while being informative. It made me want to read the Eleanor Roosevelt book by the same author.

A book about Barbie and her maker, Ruth Handler. This is a neat book in terms of that it was neatly portioned out. I was able to read the book over a 2+ week period without missing a beat. Nothing spectacular.

The book did focus much more on Ruth Handler than Barbie. It told a story without getting emotionally involved. After reading the book, I don't feel anything special toward Ruth Handler. Neither did I throughout the book.
About Barbie (and Ken, etc) and her creator Ruth Handler. Equally fascinating was the detail about the rise, fall and re-rise of this driven and successful business woman. Not someone to totally admire but she did mentor many women and men. She discovered rewards in being involved with and championed many issues and skills, like breast cancer, AIDS, and community service. Author Robin Gerber likely used info from all the sources she found and was given access to and this is easy and quick read.
Jackie Fogg
May 21, 2014 Jackie Fogg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book was about the doll Barbie.Ruth was the tenth child of polish Jewish immigrant. Barbie was made in 1959. Barbie was at a toy fair in New York and became very popular to younger girls! 90% of young females in america have or had a barbie doll.All the different parts on barbie came from different states to make her. The book explained in detail how Ruth was so creative and made barbie out of all different things and how she made barbie a famous doll!
Mary Liebetrau
Jul 25, 2009 Mary Liebetrau rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite a story about trying to mix/blend parenting with business. The dolls named Barbie and Ken were a huge success and made Mattel. But the rest of the story involves a fractured family with misplace priorities. Ruth's husband was creative and inventive and created new products. Ruth ran the business/marketing/sales portion of the business. I am in awe of Ruth's ability to sell and market. She was "ruthless."
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“I think the best people, the ones who have reached the highest plateaus as human beings, are those who have known a great deal of adversity and have dealt with it and then moved ahead.” 1 likes
“We were developing a principle with the music box that we tried to stick with for the rest of our toy career,” Ruth explained. “If you develop a basic mechanism or a basic concept, you develop one or two or three items around that concept at the initial introduction, and then year after year you add new products around the initial concept.” 0 likes
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