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Evelyn Lauder, the creator of breast cancer pink ribbon campaign dies at 75


Evelyn Lauder, the founder of pink ribbon campaign for breast cancer awareness, has died at 75.

Evelyn Lauder died at her home in Manhattan, New York, on Saturday from complications of non-genetic ovarian cancer. She had been diagnosed with cancer in 2007.

She worked for more than 50 years for the beauty products giant, Estee Lauder, which was founded by her mother-in-law. Most recently, she was the senior corporate vice president.

Evelyn Lauder helped develop the company’s lines of skin care, makeup and fragrance, and is credited with coming up with the name of its popular Clinique brand during the 1960s.

Evelyn Lauder is best known as a champion of breast cancer research and for her role in creating the pink ribbon campaign.

In 1992, Evelyn Lauder worked with her friend Alexandra Penney, the former editor-in-chief of Self magazine, to create the campaign for breast cancer awareness.

It started as a small project with Evelyn Lauder and her husband, Leonard, largely financing the bows given to women at department store makeup counters to remind them about breast exams.

Evelyn Lauder is best known as a champion of breast cancer research and for her role in creating the pink ribbon campaign

Evelyn Lauder is best known as a champion of breast cancer research and for her role in creating the pink ribbon campaign

It expanded into fundraising products, congressional designation of October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month and $330 million in donations — $50 million from Estee Lauder and its partners — to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, which Evelyn Lauder also started.

That money helped establish the Evelyn H. Lauder Breast Center at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, which opened in 2009.

Just last month, Evelyn Lauder reminisced about the early days of the breast cancer campaign. When it launched, it was so little known that some people thought it symbolized AIDS awareness.

Evelyn Lauder said: “There had been no publicity about breast cancer, but a confluence of events — the pink ribbon, the colour, the press, partnering with Elizabeth Hurley, having Estee Lauder as an advertiser in so magazines and persuading so many of my friends who are health and beauty editors to do stories about breast health — got people talking.”

Then, three years after distributing the first pink ribbon, a flight attendant noted it on Evelyn Lauder’s lapel and said: “I know that’s for breast cancer.”

“From there, it became ubiquitous,” Evelyn Lauder remembered.

Evelyn Lauder’s other passion was photography, and she was the author of the book In Great Taste: “Fresh, Simple Recipes for Eating and Living Well”.

Born Evelyn Hausner in 1936 in Vienna, Austria, she fled Nazi-occupied Europe with her parents, and they settled in the U.S. She attended public schools in New York City and Hunter College, part of the City University of New York.

As a college freshman, she met her husband, the elder son of Estee Lauder and whose family owned what was then a small cosmetics company.

“We had five products in the line, we only had two or three colours in our lipsticks,” Evelyn Lauder told cable news channel NY1 in 2005.

“It was a baby company.”

The young couple married in 1959. Leonard Lauder is now chairman emeritus of the company. Estee Lauder died in 2004 at 97.

Leonard and Evelyn Lauder’s son William is executive chairman of Estee Lauder Cos. Another son, Gary, is managing director of Lauder Partners LLC, a technology investment firm.

 

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