Pink ribbons & persecution: Ernest and Evelyn and the cancer connection
Quick thinking saved Ernest Hausner.
In 1938, as the Nazis began to stream over the Austrian border, the Viennese storekeeper gathered together all the belongings he could carry and, pushing his young family through the door, fled into the night.
Luggage under one arm, a baby under the other, enterprising Ernest bartered a safe passage into Belgium, where he sold the family silver, raising sufficient funds to purchase a visa to enter England, the lives of his loved ones no longer in grave danger.
Ernest Hausner never underestimated his luck during that eventful Springtime.
You see, Ernest Hausner was a Jew.
From the UK, the Hausners – Ernest, his wife Mimi and their young daughter Evelyn – set sail for the United States, leaving the horrors of Hitler far behind them.
Upon entering New York harbor, Ernest and Mimi woke little Evelyn from a deep sleep, keen for her to see the fabled Statue of Liberty as their ship sailed past.
Etched inside The Mother of Exiles, unbeknown to them, Emma Lazarus’ inspiring sonnet, The New Colossus, bade them welcome (“…Send me … Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free … send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me…” ), the sentiment proving rather apt.
In the United States, the Hausners found their freedom, and Ernest prospered, working, at first, as a diamond cutter, saving enough to open a string of dress shops.
So far, nothing unusual, this the story of countless European Jews fleeing persecution.
For the remarkable, it is to Evelyn that we must turn, for it is she that makes this the fantastical tale it is, one that demonstrates the inexplicable threads that run through lives the Earth over.
It is a tale that highlights the astonishing consequences that our actions can have and the unforeseen paths our lives can take.
It is a tale that is unifying, and one rooted in connection.
You see, having arrived in the United States as a small child running for her own life, Evelyn ended up striving to save the lives of countless others throughout the nation she made her home.
From the tiniest acorns, indeed.
Her subsequent childhood less eventful than that that had gone before, the industrious Evelyn enrolled at Hunter College, part of the City University of New York, to begin studying for the first of her degrees.
During her time at Hunter, she met a nice young man, fell in love and married.
Her husband’s name was Leonard Lauder. His parents were called Joseph and Esteé.
The Lauders’ cosmetics firm – at that time, in the late 1950s – was a rather modest affair.
It didn’t remain modest for long.
Joining the company, Evelyn spearheaded its astonishing growth, inventing, in the 1960s, the Clinique range of products that, to this day, remains so popular.
Impressive stuff, but it isn’t her legacy.
You see, despite the immense personal wealth that her association with the Esteé Lauder organization ensured, Evelyn made her life’s work something more important than cosmetics.
Much more important.
Having confirmed that she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer in 1989, Evelyn made it her mission to lead the fight against a disease she was horrified to discover was killing one in eight American women.
Goodness, what a fight it was.
Evelyn died, last weekend, aged 75.
But not before raising $330 million to aid breast cancer research through the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, the charity she founded in 1993.
That figure, by the way, includes a staggering $50 million raised through her own personal efforts.
It was Evelyn Lauder who pioneered the ubiquitous pink ribbon that is, these days, recognized throughout the world. To think about the lives she has colored is mind-blowing.
This is an amazing tale: One of kindness, one of generosity, one of philanthropy, for there exist countless stories of Evelyn giving her time and advice to total strangers, of her putting her own doctors at the disposal of others, of picking up the bills, of never giving up in her mission.
Evelyn became, let’s not forget, one of the richest women in the United States.
Yet her heart always remained larger than her purse and she never once forgot her humble beginnings, her astonishing upturn in fortune or the opportunities her adopted homeland had given her.
Evelyn is, for different reasons, a little like Steve Jobs, a true inspiration to us all here in our studio, where earlier this year, we created some special pink OMs (pictured above), our own personal contribution to the fight against breast cancer.
It’s our pleasure to share them with you now, we hope you like them.
We’re sure Evelyn would have approved and, so much has she touched us, we’d like to dedicate them to her memory.
Evelyn’s is a tale of lives intertwining, one that demonstrates the mysterious ways in which life works, one that proves that connection knows no bounds.
Through reaching out, through love, and dedication, Evelyn touched the lives of so many, but none of it could have happened but for Ernest Hausner and his quick thinking on that dark night in 1938. Both have our unwavering admiration. Life could have been so different.
Here’s to Ernest and here’s to Evelyn.
Here’s to courage, conviction and continuing the fight against cancer.
We are all connected.
Evelyn H Lauder 1936-2011.