Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Barbie and Ruth: The Story of the World's Most Famous Doll and the Woman Who Created Her” as Want to Read:
Barbie and Ruth: The Story of the World's Most Famous Doll and the Woman Who Created Her
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

3.54  ·  Rating Details  ·  456 Ratings  ·  82 Reviews
The tragic and redeeming story of how one visionary woman built the biggest toy company in the world and created a global icon.

Barbie and Ruth is the entwined story of two exceptional women. There's Barbie: the diminutive yet arrestingly voluptuous doll unveiled at the 1959 Toy Fair who became the treasure of 90 percent of American girls and their counterparts in 150 coun
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published February 3rd 2009 by HarperBusiness (first published January 1st 2009)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Barbie and Ruth, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Barbie and Ruth

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,068)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Apr 20, 2015 Paul rated it really liked it
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
Dec 16, 2010 Ashley rated it it was ok
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
Feb 21, 2009 Heather rated it really liked it
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
Paige Peploe
May 16, 2016 Paige Peploe rated it liked it
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.
Apr 25, 2015 Maura rated it liked it
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
Kristen Dunder
Apr 16, 2015 Kristen Dunder rated it really liked it
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
Feb 03, 2009 Sara rated it liked it
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.
Sep 09, 2014 Cassie rated it liked it
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
Gayle Francis Moffet
Dec 18, 2015 Gayle Francis Moffet rated it really liked it
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
Sep 17, 2015 Sarah rated it really liked it
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
Jul 16, 2009 Ed rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 11, 2011 Nicole rated it really liked it
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
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."

Jackie Fogg
May 21, 2014 Jackie Fogg rated it really liked it
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!
Meg Marie
Jul 30, 2010 Meg Marie rated it really liked it
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
Feb 18, 2016 Ternessa rated it really liked it
I thought I knew the real Ruth Handler but as it turns out I knew nothing about her at all. I'm glad I had the urge to learn more about her and checked this out from my local library. It was an excellent read and I was enthralled the entire time. Mrs.Handler lived a hard but remarkable life and I'm happy to call myself a fan of her most popular creation, the Barbie doll, and the creator herself.
Carol Wakefield
Aug 13, 2015 Carol Wakefield rated it really liked it
Young couple start toy company. Name it Mattel. Elliott creative force, Ruth selling force. Company does well. Ruth designs a doll no one likes. Ruth insists. Calls doll Barbie. Advertises on tv. Little girls world over like it. So much for doubting male executives. Mattel mushrooms. Ruth and Elliot ousted. Unfortunate financial doings. Big attorney needs.
Etc etc. interesting read.
Jun 19, 2011 Peggy rated it liked it
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
Dec 04, 2012 Antonia rated it really liked it
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
Kim Dula
An Amazing Story

This is one of the best stories I have read. I actually had this book in hardcover signed by Ruth Handler, and lost it in our house fire. You will be amazed to learn the true story of the world's most famous doll.
Debra Botterill
I had no idea

Wonderful story about the history of Barbie and Mattel. Ruth Handler was quite the innovator and a business powerhouse. Her life influenced untold millions of others.
Apr 18, 2015 Countesscrazy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great read for every Barbie lover!

I didn't know anything about how Mattel and Barbie came to be. I am glad I read this book! Now I want more Barbie dolls.
Christine Dooley-sheehan
Jul 13, 2015 Christine Dooley-sheehan rated it really liked it
Interesting read about a trail blazing business woman in a time when that was an unknown thing. Controversial but had no idea about her life, pre or post Barbie.
Mar 22, 2010 Jen rated it really liked it
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
Sep 17, 2014 Julie rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. I thought the author did a great job portraying Ruth Handler's multi faceted personality without being over judgmental.
Mar 03, 2010 Jessica rated it really liked it
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
Cherryl Northcutt Valdez
I learned so much after reading this book. I had no idea that Mattel was founded by a woman. Additionally she also came up with the idea of Barbie. For all those who think Barbie is sexist, after reading this book and knowing Ruth Handler s reason to invent Barbie, you will change your mind
Jun 07, 2015 Lynne rated it liked it
A woman driven by ambition in a man's world. Ruth Handler created Mattel and the Barbie doll.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 35 36 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Forever Barbie: The Unauthorized Biography of a Real Doll
  • The Barbie Chronicles: A Living Doll Turns Forty
  • Windblowne
  • The Alice Behind Wonderland
  • The Real Wizard of Oz: The Life and Times of L. Frank Baum
  • Thinking Small: The Long, Strange Trip of the Volkswagen Beetle
  • Red Princess: A Revolutionary Life
  • Eva Braun: Life with Hitler
  • Pricing Beauty: The Making of a Fashion Model
  • Fashion: A Very Short Introduction
  • How to Build a Fire: And Other Handy Things Your Grandfather Knew
  • Perfection Salad: Women and Cooking at the Turn of the Century (California Studies in Food and Culture, 24)
  • Hollywood and History - Costume Design in Film
  • The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Very Short Introduction
  • Wear This, Toss That!: Hundreds of Fashion and Beauty Swaps That Save Your Looks, Save Your Budget, and Save You Time
  • Mental Hygiene: Better Living Through Classroom Films 1945-1970
  • Your Flying Car Awaits: Robot Butlers, Lunar Vacations, and Other Dead-Wrong Predictions of the Twentieth Century
  • Bombay Anna: The Real Story and Remarkable Adventures of the "King and I" Governess

Share This Book

“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
More quotes…