Remembering Evelyn Lauder

The entire breast cancer community mourns the passing of Evelyn H. Lauder, creator of the Pink Ribbon campaign and founder of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.  She died from complications of non-genetic ovarian cancer, which had been diagnosed in 2007, at her home in New York City this past weekend.

In her long career as an executive with the cosmetics company Estee Lauder Cos., founded by her mother-in-law, Lauder was a true pioneer in the fight to end breast cancer. She was more than a woman who worked with lines of skin care, fragrances and various makeup shades of red, bronze, mauves and metallics. She was the woman who revolutionized the color pink.

She began her pink campaign by financing bows that were given to female customers who came to purchase makeup at department store counters. She did this with her friend, Alexandra Penney, former editor of Self magazine. Why was this little act of kindness so important? The purpose was to remind woman of all ages about breast cancer screening.

This act of humanity evolved into a wonderful campaign. Not only did she raise awareness, she was the person who was influential in getting the message to Congress about how important breast health is. Can you guess what happened? I think you can. Congress designated October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. You go, girl!

Evelyn Lauder’s campaign raised $330 million in donations. This is absolutely amazing; isn’t it? In addition, $50 million came from Estee Lauder and associates, eventually forming “The Breast Cancer Research Foundation”. That money also helped establish the Evelyn H. Lauder Breast Center at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, which opened in 2009.

She will forever be remembered for her support, encouragement and backing for women’s health.  Her pink ribbon, partnering with Elizabeth Hurley and convincing many health and beauty editors to do stories about breast health really got many people, both women and men from various income levels talking about breast health.

Although I never knew Evelyn Lauder, I realize that the color pink changed her life and mine as well. I am proud to wear pink and will also continue to fight so vigorously and with the same determination as Mrs. Lauder.

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