Ruth Handler (1916-2002)
Handler was a businesswoman and the creator of Barbie. Ruth and her husband, Elliot Handler, formed two companies: Elliot Handler Plastics (1939-1942) to manufacture novelty goods, and Elzac (1942-1944) to manufacture costume jewelry. In 1945, with their partner Harold "Matt" Matson, they incorporated Mattel, Inc., a toy company. In 1959 Ruth Handler created the Barbie doll, named after her daughter Barbara; the Ken doll, named for her son Kenneth, followed in 1961. By the end of the 1960s Mattel had acquired non-toy companies and had plants in many countries. Poor accounting, unwise product decisions, and bad luck led to unexpected losses in 1972 and 1973. An SEC investigation held the Handlers responsible and they were forced out of the company in 1975. Following a mastectomy, Ruth Handler was unable to find a decent prosthetic breast, so she created her own, called Nearly Me, and formed a company in 1976 with Gerald Peyton to market it.