Entrepreneurship as Emancipation: Ruth Handler and the Entrepreneurial Process ‘in Time’ and ‘over Time’, 1930s–1980s

Valeria Giacomin*, Christina Lubinski

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


We take a historical approach to the concept of ‘entrepreneurship as emancipation’ by exploring the entrepreneurial process of Ruth Handler, co-founder of the toy company Mattel and inventor of the iconic Barbie doll. Focussing on the link between Ruth Handler’s evolving self-­narratives and her entrepreneurial process between the 1930s and the 1980s, we show how her entrepreneurial emancipatory agency was contextualised and socially embedded ‘in time’ as well as an evolutionary and cumulative process ‘over time.’ We explore how the entrepreneur engaged with the industry context of the toy industry, and how she linked her social identity to interpretations of past, present, and future. We base our analysis on autobiographical accounts from Handler’s personal archival collection at the Schlesinger Library and secondary sources.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBusiness History
Number of pages28
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

Epub ahead of print. Published online: 01 June 2023


  • Creative industry
  • Emancipation
  • Entrepreneurial history
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Self-narratives
  • Toy industry

Cite this