Barbie is the world's best selling toy with more than 1 billion sold in 150 countries.

Barbie is named for the daughter of her creator Ruth Handler, co founder of Mattel. Ruth her daughter playing with paper dolls and wondered why there were no adult three dimension dolls for girls to play with. Ruth wanted to create a doll that would inspire little girls to think about they wanted to be when they grew up, hence Barbie the teenage fashion model doll. Certainly a great deal of the appeal (and perhaps some of the distrust on the part of parents and teachers) for Barbie comes from the fact that she is an adult, sexual woman for little girls (and accasionaly even little boys) to play with. Certainly I much preferred playing with adult dolls (of which there are still not very many) than baby dolls.

Barbie was based on a German doll Lilli in Ruth saw in a display case. Lilli was based on pinup girls from poster sold to soldiers during World War II. Mattel cleaned up Barbie’s image before releasing her.

Barbie’s full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts. She is from Willows, Wisconsin and went to Willows High School. Barbie debuted with the now famous black and white swimsuit and pony tail at the American Toy Fair in 1959. More than 350,000 units were sold the first year leading to back orders. Barbie started with a retail price of $3.


Barbie has caused a lot of controversy through out her lifetime. She has been accused of furthering unrealistic images of the female body. While the exact figures differ depending on which version of Barbie one bases the numbers on no Barbie would be proportioned correctly if life size, and most would not even be able to stand. As a child I always thought Barbie was rather ugly when not fully clothed (thus hiding some of her unnaturalness) and even then only some what attractive, but apparently some people find her as an ideal body to aspire to. (At least that is the worry) I did come across a story on A&E of someone getting plastic surgery to look like Barbie.

On top of her inhuman proportions she has raised more objections when a talking version was released with Barbie complaining that “Math is hard”. This outraged feminists and educators because it furthered the assumption that women are not good at math and science. Barbie has also got in trouble for not being diverse enough. There are only a few non-white Barbie’s, even with the International Barbie’s, and those there are generally just white Barbie’s with the hair and body color change. They do not reflect real differences in appearance.

Barbie Timeline:


1961 –
  • Barbie was the hottest selling fashion doll of all time.
  • Barbie 5 comes out with new hair colors.
  • first Ken doll released. Ken is ½ taller than Barbie.
  • Fuzzy headed Ken is replaced with a Ken with painted hair.
1963 - 1964 – 1965 - 1966 -
  • Barbie’s family expands welcoming cousin Francie and little twin siblings Tutti and Todd.
1967 - 1968 - 1969 -
  • Ken comes back with muscles, a new head, knees that bend, and the ability to speak.
1970 -
  • Living Barbie comes with elbows, knees, and ankles that bend and swiveling head, waist arms, hands and legs.
  • Malibu Barbie’s debuts.
  • For the first time Barbie looks straight ahead rather than demurely glancing to the side.
1974 - 1975 - 1976 – 1977 –
  • Super Size Barbie at 18 inches tall is released.
1980 -
  • The Barbie collecting craze begins with the fist Barbie convention
  • First Black and Hispanic Barbies come out as well as the beginning of the international collection
1981 1984 1985 - 1986 –
  • First Collectors Lines begun with the release of Blue Rhapsody Barbie. She is the first limited edition Barbie and the first to be made of porcelain.
1988- 1989 – 1990 - 1991 - 1992 - 1993 - 1994 - 1995 - 1996 -
  • First Barbie web-site
1997 - 1999 -
  • Barbie turns fourty.
  • Barbie is voted onto a stamp commemorating the 1960’s lifestyle.
2000 - 2001 - Sources: