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Evelyn Lauder, the woman behind the iconic pink ribbon campaign, died of non-genetic ovarian cancer this weekend at her home in New York. Though she is gone, her legacy as a champion of breast cancer research will live on.
It’s hard to believe that there was a time when breast cancer was a taboo subject. But it was -- as recently as 10 years ago. A breast cancer survivor herself, Evelyn Lauder changed all that: She developed the pink-ribbon campaign along with former Self magazine editor Alexandra Penney. Now the symbol of breast cancer awareness month, Lauder's pink ribbons made their debut at Estee Lauder makeup counters in 1992, handed out as a reminder for women to get breast exams.
Before marrying the son of makeup magnate Estee Lauder, Evelyn Hausner and her family fled to the United States in 1936 from Nazi-occupied Vienna. She later met her husband Leonard Lauder at Hunter college in 1959. After developing skincare, fragrance and makeup lines for the small cosmetics company, she eventually became Senior Corporate Vice President of the now global brand.
Lauder was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007, almost 20 years years after beating a breast cancer diagnosis in 1989. Besides starting the pink ribbon campaign in 1992, she also founded the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, helped secure October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month and raised money to build the Evelyn H. Lauder Breast Center at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, which opened in 2009.
She is survived by her husband Leonard, chairman emeritus of the Estee Lauder Companies Inc., son William, executive chairman of Estee Lauder Companies Inc., son Gary, managing director of technology-investment firm Lauder Partners LLC, and breast cancer activists everywhere.