In Dream Doll: The Ruth Handler Story, Ruth Handler — creator of Barbie, co-founder of Mattel, and founder of Nearly Me prosthetic breasts — along with author Jacqueline Shannon, tells her story: her early life in Colorado, the rise of Mattel, the legal mess Handler was wrongfully roped into, her devastating mastectomy, and her subsequent founding of Nearly Me. Handler provides an in-depth, deeply personal account of her life and incredible accomplishments as a businesswoman, wife, mother, and grandmother.
Ruth Handler and husband, Elliot, are well known for founding Mattel, one of the most successful toy companies in the world. Mattel began in young Ruth and Elliot’s garage and has grown into the multi-million-dollar company it is today because of the pair’s creativity, passion, determination, and entrepreneurship. But Ruth, who took on the business side of things while Elliot preferred the design element, became one of the first women in history to be at the head of a business, and in this book, Ruth describes the countless instances of sexism she experienced and the very real internal struggle of wanting to be both a mother and a businesswoman.
Handler also details what she is perhaps most famous for: her creation of Barbie. A cultural icon whose popularity has never wavered, Handler designed Barbie for little girls with big dreams. She writes that she wanted to give young girls an outlet to be whoever they wanted to be, a message she drives home not only with Barbie, but as an example herself, as a businesswoman in a world of businessmen.
In addition to the wild success Handler found in running Mattel, she also walks readers through the horrors of being convicted for false reporting to the Securities and Exchange Commission and the depressing and lonely times that followed. And as if that was not enough, while Handler was fighting to maintain her innocence, she was dealing with a mastectomy, the aftermath of loss of self-esteem, and the hunt for a quality prosthetic breast. Handler’s resilience through these difficult times is abundant, and through her storytelling readers experience the challenges and triumphs right alongside her.
Finally, Handler describes how she came to found Nearly Me, completely changing the industry of prosthetic breasts and helping millions of women find confidence again after undergoing mastectomies. Truly a woman of many hats, Handler’s inspiring recount of her life’s ups and downs is interesting, engaging, well-written, and a pleasure to read.
Julia DeKorte is a book reviewer focused on the noteworthy people and manufacturers from the toy and game industry. In addition to Toy Tales, she is a regular contributor at People of Play.