Barbie: A History 

By Abby N.

The Beginning

Barbie was created in 1959 by Matel. She was the first doll to show multiple jobs that, at that time, girls rarely did. She is the most famous doll in the world. She is an inspiration to little girls all around the world. Today, she shows girls they can be whoever they want to be, but that was not always the case. 


The creator of Barbie, Ruth Handler, made Barbie for her daughter. According to Barbie’s Wikipedia entry, “Ruth Handler watched her daughter Barbara play with paper dolls, and noticed that she often enjoyed giving them adult roles.” At the time, most dolls that were sold were mostly baby dolls, so no one thought to sell anything different. Barbie was created on March 9, 1959, which is her official birthday. Her first design was a blonde 12-inch tall doll wearing a black and white striped bathing suit. She didn’t have a smile on her face until 1977. 

The First  Barbie, 1959. Photo credit:


Barbie’s full name is Barbra Millicent Roberts. According to Barbie’s Wikipedia page, “…her parents’ names are given as George and Margaret Roberts from the fictional town of Willows, Wisconsin.” 

She had a romantic relationship with the doll Ken, who first appeared in 1961. A news release from Mattel in February 2004 announced “Barbie and Ken had decided to split up but in February 2006, they were hoping to rekindle their relationship after Ken had a makeover.” The pair officially got back together on Valentine’s Day 2011.

Barbiehas three younger sisters named Skipper, Stacie, and Chelsea. Barbie’s younger sister was named Kelly until she disappeared and got replaced with Chelsea in 2011. Barbie’s friends include Teresa, Midge, and Summer. Barbie also was with Blaine, a surfer, after she broke up with Ken. 

The Barbie Dream Gap Project

In 2019, Mattel started the “Barbie Dream Gap Project” to raise awareness of the “Dream Gap.” According to Barbie’s Wikipedia, “…Beginning at the age of five, girls begin to doubt their intelligence, where boys do not. This leads to boys pursuing careers requiring a higher intelligence, and girls being underrepresented in those careers.” This inspired Mattel to make a Judge Barbie. 


Many people say that Barbie promotes an unrealistic idea of body image for girls and many parents worry about their kids developing eating disorders. Barbie’s proportions had been measured at 36 inches at the chest, 18 inches at the waist, and 33 inches at the hips. This means if Barbie was real, she wouldn’t even be strong enough to lift her head off the ground!  According to research by the University Central Hospital in Helsinki, Finland, “…she would lack the 17 to 22 percent body fat required for a woman to menstruate.” In 1963, the playset “Barbie Baby-Sits” came with a book titled “How to Lose Weight.” When you opened the book there was just one page telling kids not to eat. The same book was included in another playset called “Slumber Party” in 1965. It came with a pink scale permanently set at 110 lbs. In 1997, Mattel redesigned Barbie and gave her a wider waist.

There are also bad influence controversies like the “Teen Talk Barbie.” Out of the 270 phrases she said, “Math class is tough.” Parents were outraged because they thought if their children heard Barbie say that math was hard, they would not try in math class. 

Another infamous controversy was “The Pregnant Barbie.” According to Barbie’s Wikipedia page, “In 2002, Mattel introduced a line of pregnant Midge (and baby) dolls, but this Happy Family line was quickly pulled from the market due to complaints that she promoted teen pregnancy, though, by that time, Barbie’s friend Midge was supposed to be a married adult.” 

“The Oreo Barbie” was a black-skinned Barbie that was decked out in Oreo clothes. Obviously, this was poor wording because the word “Oreo” is a derogatory word used to describe some black people. These Barbies had good intentions but were seen in the wrong way. 

The Barbie Sleepover playset. Photo credit: Refinery 29

Barbie Syndrome

Barbie syndrome is a type of body dysmorphia disorder that mostly affects young girls who want to look exactly like Barbie. According to Barbie’s Wikipedia page, “Ukrainian model Valeria Lukyanova has received attention from the press, due in part to her appearance having been modified based on the physique of Barbie. She stated that she has only had breast implants and relies heavily on makeup and contacts to alter her appearance.

Ukrainian model who wanted to be Barbie. Photo credit: New York Daily News

These controversies have changed many people’s opinions about Barbie. Many parents have banned Barbie from their homes completely and do not allow their children to play with them. Has this article changed your view on Barbie? Did you know about the Barbie controversies?