Helena Rubinstein

Major Leaguer

  • 30 Sep - 06 Oct, 2017
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Panorama

Helena Rubinstein was an entrepreneur and philanthropist born on December 25, 1872, in Krakow, Poland. As the oldest child, Helena helped her father with bookkeeping, and her intelligence led him to insist she study the medical sciences. She liked the lab work but was averse to being in a hospital, and she was allowed to end her studies as long as she agreed to marry. Her choice, however, was not the 35-year-old widower her father picked out but a fellow student from the University of Krakow.

Her father disapproved of her choice, so she packed up and moved from her native Poland to live with her uncle in Australia where she started her business career distributing a beauty cream that her mother had made and used. The creams were a hit with regional women and Rubinstein gave the products away until her mother had to send more. She soon founded a beauty salon and manufactured cosmetics, working hard to expand her business at every turn. Rubinstein opened salons in London and Paris, and she moved to America when World War I began. Her beauty business grew into a worldwide cosmetics empire, and she eventually created the Helena Rubinstein Foundation in 1953 to fund organisations for children's health. She died on April 1, 1965, in New York City.

Before long, she had her own shop in Melbourne. There she met Polish-American journalist Edward William Titus, and the pair married in July 1908 in London. Working 18-hours-a-day, Rubinstein turned a profit in her beauty business, and in 1905 she headed to Europe to study advances in skin treatments. In 1908, Rubinstein went to London with £100,000 to invest in her business, and in less than a year she had opened Helena Rubinstein's Salon de Beauté Valaze. She soon bought a Paris salon and installed her sister Pauline to run it. She opened a New York salon in 1916. Salons in San Francisco, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago and Toronto followed, as did sales of her products in department stores.

A lifelong advocate for healthy living and self-care, Rubinstein died in New York City on April 1, 1965, at age 94. A year later, her autobiography, My Life for Beauty, was published.