Women UK take a look at the life of . The first self-made female millionaire, Helena Rubinstein’s name is synonymous with luxury cosmetics.
Born in Krakow Poland in 1872 Helena, (born Chaja) was the eldest of eight daughters. Her father was a shopkeeper. Helena left Poland for Australia in 1902 barely speaking English and with no money.
She spotted a business opportunity and market gap when the ladies of the town admired her complexion. The basis of her creams was sheep fat, which happened to be abundant in Western Australia.
Finding someone to finance her idea, she launched ‘Crème Valaze’ with ingredients supposedly imported from the ‘Carpathian mountains’. This cost ten pence to make and it sold at six shillings. It flew off the shelves.
Sydney was next and after five years she opened in London and went on to become one of the world’s first cosmetic companies.
At only four feet ten Helena was a power house. She spent $ 100,000.00 to move to London; this was her own money as banks would not lend to women. Once in London, Helena married Edward Titus. Soon after, they moved to Paris where she gave birth to two sons. In Paris the couple were renowned for throwing lavish dinner parties where she was well-known for her wit and sharp quips.
Following the outbreak of war in Europe, Helena then moved to New York and opened the first of many salons and established a life-long rivalry with Elizabeth Arden. Both advocates of social climbing and the perceived value of over pricing.
Helena sold the American business to Lehman Brothers for $7.3m (equivalent to $ 88m today) but after the great depression bought it back for less the $ 1m and turned the company back around.
Her second marriage was to a man 23 years her junior, he did come with a dubious European title! She gave him
money and he gave her a title and great marketing. She once said that ‘there are no ugly women, only lazy ones’
In life and death her money supported many charitable causes namely in the arts.
She died in 1965 aged 92 years in New York. She was the first self –made female millionaire and pioneered pseudoscience in skin care.
In 1973 the company was sold to Colgate Palmolive and is now owned by L’Oreal.