Evelyn Lauder Dies, but Her Breast Cancer Legacy Never Will

breast cancer awarenessEvelyn Lauder, daughter-in-law of the famed cosmetics icon Estée Lauder, died yesterday at age 75. But it's not for any lipstick or anti-aging cream that she'll be remembered, rather it will be for the incredible contributions she made in the area of breast cancer awareness.

She is responsible for the most iconic representation of the cause -- the pink ribbon. In 1992, she and former Self editor-in-chief Alexandra Penney created it as a symbol for the disease. According to People, she and her husband, Leonard, then paid for the ribbons themselves and handed them out at makeup counters to remind women to do breast examinations. The couple also founded the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, which has raised more than $350 million.


Last month, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, she talked about how the movement grew. She said it went from virtually no publicity to a small hum. Then about three years after the first pink ribbons were handed out, a flight attendant saw the ribbon on Lauder's clothing and indicated she knew it was for breast cancer. "From there, it became ubiquitous," she said.

Simply, amazing, and what an incredible legacy to leave the world. That little pink ribbon has had such power in the decades since that time. It has been seen as a source of strength, hope, solidarity, and so much more to so many families. While there is concern by some about the overuse of the ribbon or "pinkwashing," it has by far done more good than harm in bringing about awareness and raising funds to help prevent and treat the deadly disease.

While Lauder was diagnosed with breast cancer herself in 1989, it was not what took her life in the end. Instead, reports say she died of nongenetic ovarian cancer. Not that there's ever a good cancer from which to die, but I have to say there's a part of me that rejoices that it wasn't the one that she fought so hard against that took her life in the end.

R.I.P Evelyn Lauder, and thank you for everything you did.

What does the pink ribbon mean to you?

Image via Tessa Ann's Buttons/Flickr

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