Florence Nightingale Graham
December 31, 1881
Woodbridge, Ontario, Canada
|Died||October 18, 1966 (aged 84)|
Florence Nightingale Graham (December 31, 1881 – October 18, 1966), who went by the business name Elizabeth Arden, was a Canadian-American businesswoman who founded what is now Elizabeth Arden, Inc., and built a cosmetics empire in the United States. By 1929, she owned 150 salons in Europe and the United States. Her 1,000 products were being sold in 22 countries. She was the sole owner, and at the peak of her career, she was one of the wealthiest women in the world.
Arden was born on New Year's Eve, 1881, in Woodbridge, Ontario, Canada. Her parents had emigrated to Canada from Cornwall, United Kingdom, in the 1870s. Her father, William Graham, was Scottish, and her mother, Susan (Tadd), was Cornish and had arranged for a wealthy aunt in Cornwall to pay for her children's education. Arden dropped out of nursing school in Toronto.
She then joined her elder brother in Manhattan, working briefly as a bookkeeper for the E. R. Squibb Pharmaceuticals Company. While there, Arden spent hours in their lab, learning about skincare. She then worked—again briefly—for Eleanor Adair, an early beauty culturist, as a "treatment girl".
In her salons and through her marketing campaigns, Elizabeth Arden stressed teaching women how to apply makeup and pioneered such concepts as scientific formulation of cosmetics, beauty makeovers, and coordinating colors of eye, lip and facial makeup.
Elizabeth Arden was largely responsible for establishing makeup as proper and appropriate, even necessary, for a ladylike image, when before makeup had often been associated with lower classes and prostitutes. She targeted middle age and plain women for whom beauty products promised a youthful, beautiful image.
Arden was allegedly a dedicated suffragette, and there is a story that she marched for women's rights in 1912. It is a popular fiction that she supplied the marchers with red lipstick as a sign of solidarity, but there is little contemporary evidence supporting this. Women taking part in the 1912 march were advised to wear the same $7 straw hat, wear white, and to bring their children, to demonstrate their responsibility and simplicity. The use of cosmetics was never mentioned, which is hardly surprising: bold red lipstick still had tawdry associations with the theatre. Even as late as 1920 Arden herself was dismissive of "powder and rouge..so obvious in their artifice that their use was considered in questionable taste".
In 1909, Arden formed a partnership with Elizabeth Hubbard, another culturist. The business relationship dissolved in 1910. Graham, who desired a trade name, used "Elizabeth" to save money on her salon signs. She chose the last name, "Arden", from a nearby farm. So the trade name "Elizabeth Arden" was formed. From there, Arden founded, in 1910, the Red Door salon in New York, which has remained synonymous with her name ever since (see under Elizabeth Arden, Inc.).
In 1912, Arden traveled to France to learn beauty and facial massage techniques used in the Paris beauty salons. She returned with a collection of rouges and tinted powders she had created. She began expanding her international operations in 1915 and started opening salons across the world. In 1934, she opened the Maine Chance residential spa in Rome, Maine, the first destination beauty spa in the United States. It operated until 1970.
In popular culture
The musical War Paint dramatizes her rivalry with competitor Helena Rubinstein. After a successful tryout at Chicago's Goodman Theater, the show opened on Broadway at the Nederlander Theatre on April 6, 2017, earning four Tony Award nominations, including Best Actress in a Leading Role for Christine Ebersole's portrayal of Arden as well as for Patti Lupone for her role as rival, Rubinstein. and closed on November 5, 2017.
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