The powerful earthquake and ensuing conflagration that destroyed much of San Francisco created unexpected opportunities for women designers. After the catastrophe thousands of housing units had to be replaced, as well as their contents. The upheaval of the Second World War not only improved the position of women in America, but also allowed them to flourish as designers and entrepreneurs, especially in California. It was there that the arrival of almost three million people between 1942 and 1950 — for work in war-related industries and the subsequent boom — produced an unprecedented market for housewares.
Muriel Coleman and Dorothy Schindele created modern furniture from surplus stocks of metal rods and tubes bent, cut and welded together to form the exposed frames of chairs, desks and shelving, while Greta Magnusson Grossman added the warmth of wood in her Mid-century Modern furniture.
In 1957 Ruth Handler began the development of Barbie, envisioning an adult doll that would appeal to a young girl’s desire to become an independent woman.The designers at Mattel balked: Handler thought that “they were all horrified by the thought of … [making] a doll with breasts.” Nonetheless,
Barbie went on to become the world’s best-selling toy for several decades — 15 million were sold in 2011 alone — and Barbie became the most universally distributed example of California design.