- The Washington Times - Monday, April 29, 2002

LOS ANGELES (AP) Ruth Handler, who created the Barbie doll, died Saturday. She was 85.
Mrs. Handler, who also co-founded the Mattel toy company, died at Century City Hospital, a spokesperson said without releasing details.
Her husband, Elliott, told the Los Angeles Times that his wife died of complications from the colon surgery she underwent about three months ago.
Since Mrs. Handler's creation, named for her daughter, Barbara, was introduced in 1959, it has become the most popular doll ever, an American icon and a touchstone of cultural politics.
Barbie has infuriated feminists and "fat activists" the doll's original dimensions would equal 39-18-33 on a human scale but she also has inspired artists and intrigued academics around the world. Barbie was even placed in the official "America's Time Capsule" buried in 1976.
The original blue-eyed, blonde fashion model has over the decades adopted a variety of ethnic looks and has had many careers from astronaut to veterinarian. More than 1 billion Barbie dolls have been sold in 150 countries.
"My whole philosophy of Barbie was that through the doll, the little girl could be anything she wanted to be," Mrs. Handler wrote in a 1994 autobiography. "Barbie always represented the fact that a woman has choices."
"Over and over I've had it said to me by women," she said in a 1994 interview. "She was much more than a doll for them. She was part of them."
Barbie's birth came at a time when the usual doll was a baby. Mrs. Handler decided to create a more mature toy after noticing that her daughter liked to play with paper cutout dolls of teen-agers and career women.
The 11-inch-tall plastic toy was a fresh-faced Midwesterner with a ponytail and a black-and-white striped swimsuit. Barbie debuted at the American Toy Fair in New York City in 1959. It was an instant hit, and in its first year, 351,000 dolls were sold at $3 each.
Barbie went on to make a fortune for Mattel Inc., which sold not only versions of the doll but also an expanding number of outfits and accessories, not to mention Barbie's boyfriend, Ken, named for Mrs. Handler's son; Barbie's little sister, Skipper; and pals Midge and Christie.
Mrs. Handler was born Ruth Mosko, the youngest of 10 children of Polish immigrants who settled in Denver. She moved to Southern California at 19, later marrying her high school boyfriend and studying industrial design.
Mrs. Handler, who struggled with breast cancer and had a mastectomy in 1970, began a late-life campaign for cancer awareness. The disease also prompted her second career.
Unable to find a decent prosthetic breast, Mrs. Handler created her own, called Nearly Me, and formed a company to market it. She fitted Betty Ford for one after the former first lady had a mastectomy. The company recorded more than $1 million in sales and was sold in 1991.

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