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Helena Rubinstein

Cosmetics Manufacturer, Business Executive

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Helena Rubinstein photograph - about 1900

Helena Rubinstein - about 1900

Hulton Archive / Getty Images

December 25, 1870 - April 1, 1965

Occupation: business executive, cosmetics manufacturer, art collector, humanitarian

Known for: founder and head of Helena Rubinstein, Incorporated, including beauty salons throughout much of the world

About Helena Rubinstein

Helena Rubinstein was born in Krakow, Poland. Her family fostered both her intellectual development and her sense of style and elegance. She left medical school after two years and rejected a marriage her parents arranged, and moved to Australia.

Beginnings in Australia

In Australia, Helena Rubinstein began to distribute a beauty crème that her mother had used, from Hungarian chemist Jacob Lykusky, and after two years working as a governess, she founded a beauty salon and began manufacturing other cosmetics created by Australian chemists. Her sister Ceska joined her, and they opened a second salon. Her sister Manka also joined the business.

Move to London

Helena Rubinstein moved to London, England, where she bought a building which had once been owned by Lord Salisbury, and established there a beauty salon, emphasizing cosmetics to create a natural look. At about the same time, she married Edward Titus, a journalist who helped create her advertising campaigns. She balanced her interest in developing scientifically-based cosmetics and becoming part of London's social circle.

Paris and America

In 1909 and 1912, Helena had two sons who would later join her business -- and in the same time period opened up a Paris salon.

In 1914 the family moved to Paris. When World War I began, the family moved to America, and Helena Rubinstein expanded her business to this new market, beginning in New York City, and expanding to other major U.S. cities and to Toronto, Canada. She also began distributing her products through specially-trained salesgirls in major department stores.

In 1928, Helena Rubinstein sold her U.S. business to Lehman Brothers, and bought it back a year later for about one-fifth what she'd sold it for. Her business thrived during the Great Depression, and Helena Rubinstein became known for her jewelry and art collections. Among her jewels were some originally owned by Catherine the Great.

Divorce and a New Husband

Helena Rubinstein divorced Edward Titus in 1938 and married Russian prince Artchil Gourielli-Tchkonia. With his connections, she expanded her social circle to more of the world's wealthiest people.

A Worldwide Cosmetics Empire

Though World War II meant the closing of some salons in Europe, she opened others in South America, Asia, and in the 1960s built a factory in Israel.

She was widowed in 1955, her son Horace died in 1956, and she died of natural causes in 1965 at age 94. She continued managing her cosmetics empire until her death. At her death, she owned five homes in Europe and the United States. Her million-dollar art and jewelry collections were auctioned.

Also known as: Helena Rubenstein, Princess Gourielli

Organizations: Helena Rubinstein Foundation, founded 1953 (funds organizations for children's health)

Background, Family:

  • Father: Horace Rubinstein (businessman)
  • Mother: Augusta Silberfeld
  • seven sisters

Education:

  • public school in Cracow
  • medical school, University of Cracow (left after two years)

Marriage, Children:

  • husband: Edward William Titus (married 1908-1938; newspaperman)
  • children: Roy (1909), Horace (1912)
  • husband: Prince Artchil Gourielli-Tchkonia (1938-1955)

Writings Include:

  • The Art of Feminine Beauty 1930
  • This Way to Beauty 1936
  • Food for Beauty 1938
  • My Life for Beauty 1965 (autobiography)

Bibliography

  • Patrick O'Higgins. Madame, an Intimate Biography. 1971.

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