by Angela Wood
The Broader Perspective


Barbie's history aligns with Women’s History Month. Ruth Handler, Barbie's creator, aimed to inspire girls with diverse career options.
Barbie - The Broader Perspective

Mrs. Ruth Handler created the Barbie concept in 1954 and co-founded the toy manufacturer, Mattel with her husband. She served as the company’s first president from 1945-1975. Ruth had observed that, while her son had numerous action figures to inspire him to become many things (fireman, superhero, and more), her daughter only had baby dolls, reinforcing the stereotypical role of mother. Thus began Ruth Handler’s campaign to provide girls with dolls to inspire them to become anything they wanted to be. Read more about Ruth Handler.

Barbie debuted in 1959 and was originally a supermodel by profession. She soon pursued multiple careers that are now too numerous to mention here. A few notable favorites you may not know include game show host, chief sustainability officer (seriously!), and lute player (limited ed. Japan). Barbie was early proponent of inclusion and positive race relations, with the addition of her friends Christy and Curtis in the 1960’s. You can learn more at the exhibit, Barbie: An American Icon, currently in exhibition at The Phoenix Art Museum until June. I got to drive the pink corvette! Get more information about the Phoenix Art Museum (and Barbie Exhibit).

The Barbie brand continues to support girls with the Dream Gap Project. Research shows that around age 5 or 6 girls stop believing they can be anything. The Dream Gap Project works to close the gap that limits girls from their full potential. Here is more information about The Dream Gap Project.

On a personal note, I loved Ryan Gosling as Ken in the Barbie movie. Although I may not consider the movie Oscar-worthy, I thought it was hilarious, entertaining, fun, and brought back some great memories of Barbies past and the girls I used to play with.