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Elizabeth Arden. Photograph by Arnold Genthe. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-G4085- 0381 P&P).

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Arden, Elizabeth (31 December 1878?–18 October 1966), businesswoman, was born Florence Nightingale Graham (her legal name throughout life) in Woodbridge, near Toronto, Canada, the daughter of William Graham and Susan Tadd, farmers. Florence would remain a citizen of Canada until she married an American, Thomas Jenkins Lewis, in 1915. Her mother died when Florence was a small child. Unable to finish high school because of her straitened finances, she entered nursing but found that she disliked working with sick people. She moved quickly through jobs as dental assistant, stenographer, and cashier and finally followed her brother William to New York City. By then she was about thirty, although her youthful complexion made her look about twenty. In 1908, as a cashier in a New York beauty salon, she persuaded her employer, Eleanor Adair, to teach her how to give facials, and she quickly mastered this “art of the healing hands.”...

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Mary Kay Ash. In her office, Dallas, Texas, January 1982. Courtesy of AP Images.

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Ash, Mary Kay (12 May 1918–22 November 2001), founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, known as Mary Kay, was born Mary Kathlyn Wagner in Hot Wells, Texas, north of Houston, the daughter of Edward Alexander Wagner, an invalid, and Lula Vember Hastings, a restaurant manager. Texas has no record of Mary Kathlyn Wagner's birth for 1918—the year she usually claimed—nor for 1916, the date cited second most often; she may have been born as early as 1915. By 1920, her family moved to Houston's bleak Sixth Ward....

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Ayer, Harriet Hubbard (27 June 1849–23 November 1903), businesswoman and journalist, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of Henry George Hubbard, a real estate dealer, and Juliet Elvira Smith. Her father died when Harriet was three years old, but his legacy of valuable land purchases enabled the family to live comfortably. Poor health limited Harriet’s early education to private tutors. Although Episcopalian, she entered the Catholic Convent of the Sacred Heart at the age of twelve, graduating three years later....

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Hazel Bishop a research chemist who two years earlier rocked the cosmetics world with her formula for a long-lasting lipstick, uses her own lipstick in her New York City office, 7 April 1951. Associated Press

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Bishop, Hazel (17 August 1906–05 December 1998), cosmetics executive, was born in Hoboken, New Jersey, the daughter of Henry Bishop, an entrepreneur who operated several small businesses, including a motion-picture distributorship, and Mabel Billington Bishop, who assisted in the businesses. Both parents were Jewish. Business discussions around the dinner table were typical family fare, and young Bishop and her brother were encouraged to participate. However, as a bright student with a scientific bent, she was not expected to choose a business career. Upon graduating from the Bergen School for Girls in Jersey City, Bishop enrolled at Barnard College in New York City in 1925 with the intention of becoming a physician. After successful completion of a pre-med program, she graduated in 1929 and planned to pursue medical studies at Columbia University. She began taking evening graduate school courses that fall at Columbia, but the collapse of the stock market in October and the ensuing economic depression put an end to her plans for medical school....

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Jacqueline Cochran Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-105221).

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Cochran, Jacqueline (1910?–09 August 1980), pioneer aviator and business executive, was born in Muscogee, Florida, near Pensacola. Her parents both died during her infancy, and she was raised by foster families with whom she worked in the lumber mills of the Florida panhandle. By the age of fifteen she had also worked in a Columbus, Georgia, cotton mill and learned how to cut hair in a beauty shop. Cochran took nursing training at a hospital in Montgomery, Alabama, from 1925 to 1928, but by 1930 she had returned to Pensacola to work in a beauty salon. In 1932 she traveled to Philadelphia to work in a beauty shop and then moved in the same year to New York City, where her skill earned her a job at Antoine’s, a well-known Saks Fifth Avenue beauty shop. For the next four years she worked for this business, spending every winter working in Antoine’s branch in Miami Beach, Florida. She met ...

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Colgate, William (25 January 1783–25 March 1857), manufacturer and philanthropist, was born in Hollingbourne parish, Kent, England, the son of Robert Colgate, a gentleman farmer, and Sarah Bowles. In 1795 he emigrated with his family to the United States because his father, an outspoken critic of King George III, was forced to flee England to avoid prosecution for treason. The family disembarked in Baltimore, Maryland, and purchased a modest estate in nearby Harford County, which was lost two years later when it was discovered that they did not possess a clear title. They then moved to present-day Randolph County, West Virginia, where his father attempted unsuccessfully to farm and mine coal. In 1800 they returned to Baltimore, where he and his father went into business with Robert Mather, a soap and candle maker. After the partnership dissolved two years later and his family relocated to Ossining, New York, he remained in Baltimore and opened his own soap and candle works....

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Factor, Max (1872?–30 August 1938), cosmetics expert and executive, was born Max Faktor in Łódź, Poland, the son of Abraham Faktor and Cecilia Tandowsky. The exact year of his birth is unknown. Factor himself was not even certain, although 1872, 1874, and 1877 were the years most reported. Given the events that took place in his early life, 1872 appears to be the most accurate....

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Factor, Max, Jr. (18 August 1904–07 June 1996), cosmetics inventor and businessman, was born Frank (some sources say Francis) Factor in St. Louis to Max Factor, Sr. (originally Faktor) of Poland and Esther Rosa Factor from Russia. Frank Factor was born after the family immigrated to America and settled in St. Louis in 1904. He later changed his name to Max Factor, Jr., upon his father's death in 1938....

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Fels, Joseph (16 December 1853–22 February 1914), soap manufacturer, reformer, and single-tax evangelist, was born in Halifax Court House, Virginia, the second son of Lazarus Fels, a peddler, and Susannah Freiberg. His Bavarian Jewish parents had immigrated in 1848, coming from near Kaiserslautern. Settling in Yanceyville, North Carolina, Lazarus Fels took over the general store and in 1861 was appointed Confederate States postmaster. Joseph attended classes in Yanceyville and, with his older sisters, a boarding school in Richmond, Virginia. Bankrupted by the Civil War and a failed try at soapmaking, Lazarus Fels moved the family to Baltimore in 1867. At fifteen Joseph ended schooling to work in his father’s second soap business, which also failed; then briefly, at seventeen, he became a traveling coffee salesman. Within a year he and his father became the Baltimore representatives of Charles Elias and Company, a Philadelphia soap house. In 1873 Lazarus moved northward again, this time to Philadelphia. Two years later, Joseph acquired a partnership in Thomas Worsley and Company, a maker of fancy toilet soaps, installing his father in charge of manufacturing. In 1876 Joseph Fels bought out Worsley after founding Fels and Company of Philadelphia in his own name. Fels and Company prospered in the intensely competitive soap business, by 1890 marketing no fewer than 107 varieties....

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Fels, Samuel Simeon (16 February 1860–23 June 1950), soap manufacturer and philanthropist, was born in Yanceyville, North Carolina, the son of Lazarus Fels, proprietor of a general store, and Susanna Freiberg. Before and during the Civil War, the family prospered, largely through the entrepreneurial efforts of Samuel’s father, despite an unsuccessful attempt to make and sell soap....

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Fuller, Alfred Carl (13 January 1885–04 December 1973), brush manufacturer and door-to-door marketer, was born in Welsford, Kings County, Nova Scotia, the son of Leander Joseph Fuller and Phebe Jane Collins, farmers. The eleventh of twelve children, Fuller grew up in an extended family of New England émigrés on Acadian land settled following the French and Indian War. The farm relied on oxen rather than horses, the family worshiped with the local Methodist congregation, and the children studied at the common school. As he came of age Fuller joined most of his generation in migrating to cities to find work. In January 1903 he left from the port at Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, for Boston, where three brothers and two sisters already lived. A sister in Somerville provided him a room, while a brother got him a job as a streetcar conductor. He was discharged after eighteen months for derailing a car. Then failing as a groom and a teamster, Fuller sought a job with the Somerville Brush and Mop Company, a business begun by another brother who had subsequently died, and started work there on 7 January 1905 as a salesman....

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Gillette, King Camp (05 January 1855–09 July 1932), inventor and social theorist, was born in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, the son of George Wolcott Gillette, a hardware wholesaler, and Fanny Lemira Camp, later the author of the bestselling White House Cookbook. Shortly before the Civil War the family moved to Chicago, where he graduated from high school. Gillette clerked in a hardware store and then became a traveling salesman. Like his father and two older brothers, he delighted in inventive tinkering, and in 1879 he was granted his first patent, for a water-faucet component. In 1890 he married Atlanta Ella Gaines; they had one son....

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Malone, Annie Turnbo (09 August 1869–10 May 1957), African-American businesswoman, manufacturer, and philanthropist, was born in Metropolis, Illinois, the daughter of Robert Turnbo and Isabella Cook, farmers. Little is known of the early childhood of Annie Turnbo Malone, except that she was second youngest of eleven children. Her parents were former slaves in Kentucky. Her father joined the Union army during the Civil War, and her mother escaped to Illinois with her small children. After the war, Robert Turnbo joined his family at Metropolis, where he became a farmer and landowner. Following the death of both parents, Annie went to live with older brothers and sisters in Metropolis and, later, Peoria and Lovejoy, Illinois. She completed public school education in Metropolis and attended high school in Peoria. Because of ill health, she did not complete her high school education. In these early years, Malone dreamed of making products to enhance the beauty of black women. She experimented with chemistry while in high school, and believing that “woman’s crowning glory is her hair,” she developed a scalp treatment solution to grow and straighten hair....

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Nestle, Charles (02 May 1872–22 January 1951), creator of permanent waving devices for human hair, was born Karl Ludwig Nessler, in Todtnau, Bavaria, the son of Bartholomew Nessler, a shoemaker, and Rosina Laitner. For some unknown reason, the vagaries of hair fascinated Nestle as a young man. He invested long hours in the study of its properties. This youthful interest led Nestle to work briefly in a neighboring village as a barber’s apprentice. Not long after, he traversed the border into nearby Switzerland to work successive jobs in small electric appliance and watch parts firms. Although he developed solid knowledge of simple mechanics and electric motors and equipment, Nestle soon tired of factory work and followed his early interest in hair to salons, where he learned to cut it and wave it, while closely studying its properties....

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Noda, Alice Sae Teshima (28 July 1894–25 July 1964), businesswoman, was the daughter of Yasuke Teshima and Eki Kurauchi, plantation immigrant laborers to Hawaii from Fukuoka, Japan. The Teshimas arrived in 1899, labored on a plantation near Wahiawa, and by 1904 had saved enough to become independent pineapple growers. Alice Sae Teshima graduated from McKinley High School. In December 1912 she married Steere Gikaku Noda, whose parents also had immigrated as plantation laborers to Hawaii, in 1891. She had met her future husband while they both were attending the Hawaii Japanese Language School. He took a post as deputy-collector for the federal Internal Revenue Service in Honolulu and, later, as an interpreter-clerk for the District Court of Honolulu until, after studying law, he served as court practitioner after 1930. The Nodas had four children. After the birth of their last child, she returned to school, attending the Honolulu Dental Infirmary, and upon graduation in 1922 she worked as a dental hygienist for the Department of Public Instruction, teaching children dental care. By 1924, through her effort, competence, skills, and leadership, she became the head of the Honolulu Dental Hygiene School. By 1925 she was a recognized community leader, serving as president of the Dental Hygienists’ Association....

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Procter, William Cooper (25 August 1862–02 May 1934), business executive, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the son of William Alexander Procter, an executive at the Procter & Gamble Company, and Charlotte Elizabeth Jackson. His father was the eldest son of William Procter, who cofounded the Procter & Gamble Company with his brother-in-law James Gamble in 1837....