Real-World “Barbies”

Barbie, with its message of female empowerment, has been a global box office hit. The titular inspiration for the movie, Mattel’s best-selling Barbie doll, was created by Ruth Handler, who sought to make a doll onto which young girls could project their hopes for their grown-up selves.

Widely recognized as the world’s most famous doll, Barbie has had multiple professions since hitting toy stores in 1959. Among the dozens of “career dolls” in the Barbie lineup are doctor, astronaut, veterinarian, firefighter, teacher, violinist, and U.S. President.

Here are some of the women “This Is Capitalism” has profiled who embody Barbie’s barrier-breaking ways.

Ruth Handler

The woman who started it all, Ruth Handler, gave the toy company Mattel its identity by inventing one of the world’s most iconic toys: “Barbie.” Explore how Ruth brought the idea of her dream doll into fruition and launched “Barbie” in 1959.

Clara Barton

Perhaps more well known as “The Angel of the Battlefield,” Clara Barton was a pioneer in nursing during the Civil War. Despite never being a professional or trained nurse, her skills were recognized and led to the founding of one of the first national charitable organizations: American Red Cross. Discover more about Barton’s impressive life and the legacy she left, which opens doors for women today.

Laura Swanton 

She started her career in technology, but Laura Swanton now runs a winery in Napa Valley. Her 17-year tech career gave her the skills she needed to become a successful winemaker and distributor. She prefers to call herself a farmer rather than a winemaker, which she says helps keep her grounded.

Madam C.J. Walker 

Born on the same plantation where her parents were enslaved, Madame C. J. Walker broke through many barriers in the late 1800s by becoming one of the first American women millionaires and entrepreneurs. She built a factory, a laboratory and a beauty school, all in just a few short years, and she has empowered other women through her hair care and beauty business.

Katheryn Basso 

Katheryn’s time as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Marine Corps led her to recognize the inaccessibility of women’s tactical gear and clothing. She asked women in the tactical space how she could make their clothing more useful, which led to the creation of KADRI Clothing. Her pants are used by emergency medical service professionals, law enforcement, fire departments and, more recently, the U.S. Air Force.

Sara Hurst 

Dismayed by a lack of fresh, healthy foods for her children, Sara started her own food business. On CEO Stories, she talks about being a female entrepreneur, launching a business during the pandemic and how she maintains a high standard of quality while scaling the business.

Heidi Hertel 

Heidi started Fitz Frames in 2018, inspired by a teary visit to the optometrist with her 2-year-old daughter. Hertel wanted to create a hassle-free way to select custom-fitting glasses that are lighter and better suited to kids.

Zelda Wynn Valdes
Zelda Wynn Valdes, credited as the first Black fashion designer, made her mark within Black history and culture. Her achievements include opening the first Black-owned business on Broadway in New York City and creating the iconic Playboy Bunny uniform.

Josephine Cochrane 
After her husband’s death in 1883 left her with crushing debt, Chicago socialite Josephine Cochrane set out to make her own living by inventing the first viable automatic dishwasher. Read about how she invented and launched the world’s first commercially successful automatic dishwasher as an independent female entrepreneur in the 1800s.

Natalie Mangrum
Natalie Mangrum never saw herself becoming an entrepreneur. But a love of teaching and an entrepreneurial spirit, ingrained in her by her business-owning father, led her to launch a tutoring business in 2015. Listen to how she created a successful business that is experiencing continued growth.

A girl scout holding seven boxes of girl scout cookies.

Girl Scouts 
Many girls across America got their first experience in the business world by selling Girl Scout cookies, helping them develop sales and people skills at a young age. Explore the impact of the Girl Scouts organization and read about the achievements of some famous former Scouts.