ON THIS DATE in 1958, Ruth Handler introduced the Barbie doll, billed as “the original Teenage Fashion Model.” Named for Handler’s seventeen-year-old daughter, Barbara Handler, the first Barbie had a hard-core look that didn’t project teenage innocence. “This is not the face of a seventeen-year-old,” collectible-doll dealer Joe Blitman told NPR in 2008. “This is the face of a forty-year-old woman who’s seen a lot of action.”
While many kids have loved their Barbies, many grownups have fretted that the figure’s projected measurements of 36-18-38 create unrealistic body expectations for girls. One hospital’s research concluded that Barbie lacks the body fat required for menstruation.
Some say Barbara Handler gave her mom the Barbie idea by giving her own dolls young-adult roles during playtime.