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Remembering Evelyn Lauder, 1936-2011

Early Life

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Evelyn Lauder (born Evelyn Hausner in 1936) has been called an example of the quintessential American success story. Born in Vienna, Austria, she and her parents fled the Nazi occupation by leaving first for Belgium, then to England, and lastly to the United States.

She attended New York public schools, and went to Hunter College, where she was introduced to Leonard Lauder, who would later become her husband.

The Start of Her Professional Career

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Although Lauder became a teacher after graduating from Hunter College, she was eventually persuaded to join the Lauder family business by her mother-in-law, Mrs. Estée Lauder, where she started out measuring color standards in makeup, selling products in stores, and making personal appearances on behalf of the company.

Style Icon

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Lauder was known for many things— her business smarts, her insights into consumer fashion trends, philanthropy, and advocacy— so it's no surprise that she was considered a style icon as well. In both 1999 and 2007, she was featured in Crain's New York Business magazine as one of New York's most influential women in business, and in 2008, she was named to the International Best-Dressed List.

Becoming the Head of Fragrance Development

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In 1989, Lauder was named the Senior Corporate Vice-President of the Estée Lauder Companies, as well as the Head of Fragrance Development Worldwide. Lauder let her love of flowers and gardening inspire her as she worked to develop new fragrances, often drawing ideas from what she would see as she traveled for work.

Lauder was responsible for the development of two of Estée Lauder's most successful fragrances, Beautiful and Pleasures.

Fighting for Women's Issues

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When the Estée Lauder Companies launched Clinique in 1968, it was Evelyn who came up with the name. She was the first to wear the now-ubiquitous Clinique white lab coat, pictured at left here.

Lauder brought the same passion and drive that she took to work to the community as well. Although she was active with many different causes, she's best known for her fight for different women's issues.

In 1987, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her experience made her realize that at the time, no one was talking about breast cancer, so in 1992, she and her husband, along with Alexandra Penney began handing out tiny pink label ribbons to customers at department store makeup counters to remind them about breast cancer.

Raising Breast Cancer Awareness

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Although Lauder was responsible for the now-famous Pink Ribbon Campaign, her fight against breast cancer didn't end there. In addition, she launched the Estée Lauder Companies Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign (BCA), which raises money for breast cancer research worldwide, and in 1993, appalled at the lack of money dedicated toward research, she founded the Breast Cancer Research Foundation®.

Here Lauder is pictured with former President Bill Clinton, who wore a pink tie as the headliner at the 2010 Evelyn Lauder Annual Breast Cancer Research Foundation luncheon.

Bringing Breast Cancer to a Global Perspective

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Working tirelessly to raise breast cancer awareness, Lauder launched the Global Landmarks Illumination Initiative in 2000. During Breast Cancer Awareness month, historic landmarks around the world including the Empire State Building, Tower of Pisa, and the London Tower are illuminated with pink lighting to literally spotlight global attention on breast health.

Evelyn Lauder's Influence

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On the day of Lauder's death, long-time face of the Estée Lauder Cosmetics, Elizabeth Hurley tweeted "RIP my dear friend and mentor, Evelyn Lauder. I will miss you so much. The world will never forget your work for breast cancer."

In 2006, Lauder was recognized as one of the most influential people in New York Magazine's "The Influentials" issue.

Other Achievements

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There's almost nothing Lauder hasn't done. In addition to her professional achievements, Lauder was an acclaimed photographer, with her work appearing in several different publications including Interview, O: The Oprah Magazine, American Photo, and in galleries in California, Japan and Spain.

In 2006, Rodale Books approached Lauder about writing a cookbook of healthy recipes. In Great Taste: Fresh, Simple Recipes for Eating and Living Well was the result. All of the royalties from the book are donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Lauder passed away on November 12, 2011 from complications of non-genetic ovarian cancer. She is survived by her husband, Leonard A. Lauder; her two sons, Gary and William; and five grandchildren.