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Ruth Handler. During the thirty-fifth birthday celebration of the Barbie doll at FAO Schwarz in New York City, 9 Mar. 1994. Courtesy of AP Images.


Handler, Ruth (04 November 1916–27 April 2002), businesswoman, was born Ruth Mosko in Denver, Colorado, the daughter of Jacob Joseph Mosko (né Moskowicz), a blacksmith, and Ida Rubinstein. Ruth's parents were Jewish immigrants from Poland who had come to the United States in steerage in 1907. The youngest of ten children, she attended public school in Denver and worked in the drugstore her father was able to purchase a few years after arriving. At the age of nineteen, she moved to Hollywood, California, where she worked as a secretary at Paramount Studios. In 1935 Isadore Elliot Handler, her boyfriend from Denver, joined her in California, and the two returned to Denver soon afterward. She studied at the University of Denver in 1935 and 1936, and she and Elliot (as he was always known) were married in 1938. The couple had two children. The Handlers returned to California, where Elliot studied at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. In 1941 Ruth Handler left the secretarial job at Paramount to which she had returned and worked with her husband, who had been designing and making their furniture and household accessories out of the new acrylic plastics Lucite and Plexiglas, to produce enough goods to sell to local stores. They formed a company called Elzac, from the first syllables of the names of Elliot and a partner named Zachary, and added costume jewelry and household items, such as bookends and candleholders, to their line. So successful was Ruth Handler's merchandising that the company reached $2 million in annual sales....