Helena Rubinstein (1870 - 1965) MP

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Birthplace: Cracow
Death: Died in New York City
Managed by: Malka Mysels
Last Updated:

About Helena Rubinstein

Helena Rubinstein

Born in Krakow (now in Poland), on December 25, 1870, the oldest of eight children of Augusta (Gitel Szeindel nee SILBERFELD ) and Naftali Herz (Horace) Rubinstein.

She briefly studied medicine in Switzerland and immigrated to Australia in 1902. She noticed that the Australian women had rough reddish faces that required cosmetic attention. Rubinstein opened a modest shop in Melbourne where she dispensed her "Creme Valaze" and instructed women individually on how to care for their skin. She worked long hours and her shop prospered.

In 1908, her sister Ceska joined her and took over the management of the shop as she went to London with a $ 100,000 to start what would become an international organization.

She met Edward Titus, an American journalist in London, and they were married in 1908. They had two sons, Roy, in 1908, and Horace in 1912. They lived in Paris and when World War I started, they moved back to the United States.

She opened beauty salons throughout the country where her skin care and her creams were in demand. The department stores were clamoring to sell her products. Rubinstein was a brilliant innovator in developing her business so that it required routines and women. She trained sales people to teach women skin care and devised a diet plan for beauty. She inaugurated a "Day of Beauty" in her salons which became an instant success. She understood and appreciated the value of advertising and she made full use of it in developing her business.

She divorced her husband in 1937 after a shaky marriage for the past ten years.

She married Prince Artchil Gourielli-Tchkonia. a Georgian prince twenty years her junior, in 1938. She developed a line of male cosmetics which bore his name. He died in 1956 and her son, Horace, died two years later.

Rubinstein was very much concerned and interested in the welfare of Israel. She was very generous with monetary contributions. She founded the Helena Rubinstein Pavilion of Contemporary Art in Tel Aviv where her collection of miniature rooms is housed. The Helena Rubinstein Foundation, created in 1953, provided the necessary funds to organizations concerned with health, medical research and rehabilitation. The Foundation also supported the American Israel Cultural Foundation and awarded scholarships to Israelis.

Rubinstein hated small talk and was very frugal. She carried a bag lunch to work with her although she was a very, wealthy woman with over millions of dollars worth of the masters in art and sculpture.

Despite her frugality, she bought her clothes from the top fashion designers in the industry. Her top executives in the business were relatives as she was very family oriented.

In 1959, she went to Moscow where she officially represented the cosmetic industry in the United States at the American National Exhibition. Helena Rubinstein was always involved with her organization and even when her health was failing, she carried on from her sick bed.

She died in New York City on April 1, 1965. Her philanthropy, material support for Israel and her enhancement of women looking and feeling more beautiful will long be remembered.

This is one of the 150 illustrated true stories of American heroism included in Jewish Heroes & Heroines of America : 150 True Stories of American Jewish Heroism, © 1996, written by Seymour "Sy" Brody of Delray Beach, Florida, illustrated by Art Seiden of Woodmere, New York, and published by Lifetime Books, Inc., Hollywood, FL. Source: Jewish Heroes and Heroines in America.

http://www.helenarubinsteinfdn.org/index.html

From Helenas' family tree:

http://www.ics.uci.edu/~dan/genealogy/Krakow/Families/Silberfeld.html

http://www.eilatgordinlevitan.com/kurenets/k_pages/rubinstein.html

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Helena Rubinstein (December 25, 1870 – April 1, 1965), a Polish cosmetics industrialist, founder and eponym of Helena Rubinstein, Incorporated, which made her one of the world's richest women.

Early life

Helena Rubinstein was born in this house in Kraków's Kazimierz district.

Rubinstein was born Chaja Rubinstein, the eldest of eight children, to Augusta Gitte (Gitel) Scheindel Silberfeld Rubinstein and Naftali Herz Horace Rubinstein; he was a shopkeeper in Kraków. For a short time, she studied medicine in Switzerland.

Move to Australia

She arrived in Australia in 1894, with no money and little English. Her stylish clothes and milky complexion did not pass unnoticed among the town's ladies, however, and she soon found enthusiastic buyers for the jars of beauty cream in her luggage. Spotting a market, she began to make her own. Fortunately, a key ingredient was readily to hand.

Coleraine, in Western Victoria, where her uncle was a shopkeeper, might have been an "awful place" but it did not lack for lanolin. Sheep, some 75 million of them, were the wealth of the nation and the Western District's vast mobs of merinos produced the finest wool in the land, secreting abundant grease in the process. To disguise the sheep oil's pungent pong, Rubinstein experimented with lavender, pine bark and water lilies.

She also managed to fall out with her uncle. After a stint as a bush governess, she got a job as a waitress at the Winter Garden tearooms in Melbourne. There, she found an admirer willing to stump up the funds to launch her Crème Valaze, supposedly including herbs imported "from the Carpathian Mountains". Costing ten pence and selling for six shillings, it walked off the shelves as fast as she could pack it in pots. Now calling herself Helena, Rubinstein could soon afford to open a salon in fashionable Collins Street, selling glamour as a science to clients whose skin was "diagnosed" and a suitable treatment "prescribed".

Sydney was next, and within five years Australian operations were profitable enough to finance a Salon de Beauté Valaze in London. As such, Rubinstein formed one of the world’s first cosmetic companies. Her business enterprise proved immensely successful and later in life she used her enormous wealth to support charitable institutions in the fields of education, art and health.

Diminutive at 4 ft. 10 in. (147 cm), she rapidly expanded her operation. In 1908, her sister Ceska assumed the Melbourne shop's operation, when, with $100,000, Rubinstein moved to London and began what was to become an international enterprise. (Women at this time could not obtain bank loans, so the money was her own.)

Marriage and children

In 1908, she married American journalist Edward William Titus in London. They had two sons, Roy Valentine Titus (London, December 12, 1909–New York, June 18, 1989) and Horace Titus (London, April 23, 1912–New York, May 18, 1958). They eventually moved to Paris where she opened a salon in 1912. Her husband helped with writing the publicity and set up a small publishing house, published Lady Chatterley's Lover and hired Samuel Putnam to translate famous model Kiki's memoirs.

Rubenstein threw lavish dinner parties and became known for apocryphal quips, such as when an intoxicated French ambassador expressed vitriol toward Edith Sitwell and her brother Sacheverell: “Vos ancêtres ont brûlé Jeanne d’Arc!” (“What did he say?)," Rubinstein, who knew little French, asked a guest. “He said, ‘Your ancestors burned Joan of Arc.’ ” Rubinstein replied, "Well, someone had to do it."

At another fête, Marcel Proust asked her what makeup a duchess might wear. She summarily dismissed him because "he smelt of mothballs." Rubenstein recollected later, "How was I to know he was going to be famous?"

Move to the United States

At the outbreak of World War I, she and Titus moved to New York City, where she opened a cosmetics salon in 1915, the forerunner of a chain throughout the country. This was the beginning of her vicious rivalry with the other great lady of the cosmetics industry, Elizabeth Arden. Both Rubinstein and Arden, who died within 18 months of each other, were social climbers. And they were both keenly aware of effective marketing and luxurious packaging, the attraction of beauticians in neat uniforms, the value of celebrity endorsements, the perceived value of overpricing and the promotion of the pseudo-science of skincare.

From 1917, Rubinstein took on the manufacturing and wholesale distribution of her products. The "Day of Beauty" in the various salons became a great success. The purported portrait of Rubinstein in her advertising was of a middle-age mannequin with a gentile appearance.

In 1928, she sold the American business to Lehman Brothers for $7.3 million, ($88 million in 2007). After the arrival of the Great Depression, she bought back the nearly worthless stock for less than $1 million and eventually turned the shares into values of multimillion dollars, establishing salons and outlets in almost a dozen U.S. cities. Her subsequent spa at 715 Fifth Avenue included a restaurant, a gymnasium and rugs by painter Joan Miró. She commissioned Salvador Dalí to design a powder compact as well a portrait of herself.

Divorce and remarriage

In 1937, Rubinstein divorced Titus after a contentious marriage marked by his infidelities.

Freed of her former marriage vows, in 1938 Helena readily married Prince Artchil Gourielli-Tchkonia (1895-1955), whose somewhat clouded materlineal claim to Georgian nobility, as that of Prince Artchil Gourielli-Tchkonia (sometimes spelled Courielli-Tchkonia; born at Georgia, 18 February 1895, died at New York City 21 November 1955), stemmed from his having been born a member of the untitled noble Tchkonia family of Guria, enticing the ambitious young man to appropriate the genuine title of his grandmother, born Princess Gourielli.

Self-styled Prince Artchil Gourielli-Tchkonia, was 23-years younger than Rubinstein. Eager for a regal title to call her own, Rubinstein pursued the handsome youth avidly; coming to name a male cosmetics line after her youthful prized catch. Some have claimed that the marriage was a marketing ploy, including Rubinstein's being able to pass herself off as Helena Princess Gourielli.

A multimillionaire of contrasts, Rubinstein took a bag lunch to work and was very frugal in many matters but bought top-fashion clothing and valuable fine art and furniture. Concerning art, she founded the respectable Helena Rubinstein Pavilion of Contemporary Art in Tel Aviv. In 1953, she established the philanthropic Helena Rubinstein Foundation to provide funds to organizations specializing in health, medical research and rehabilitation as well as to the America-Israel Cultural Foundation and scholarships to Israelis.

In 1959, Rubinstein represented the U.S. cosmetics industry at the American National Exhibition in Moscow.

A £300 annual Rubinstein Prize was awarded for portraits by Australian artsts from 1960. Prizewinners included Charles Blackman 1960; William Boissevain 1961; Margaret Olley 1962; Vladas Meskenas 1963; Judy Cassab 1964, 1965; Jack Carington Smith 1966.

Called "Madame" by her employees, she eschewed idle chatter, continued to be active in the corporation throughout her life, even from her sick bed, and staffed the company with her relatives.

Death and afterward

Some of her estate including African and fine art, Lucite furniture, and overwrought Victorian furniture upholstered in purple was auctioned in 1966 at the Park-Bernet Galleries in New York.

One of Rubinstein's numerous mantras is: "There are no ugly women, only lazy ones." A scholarly study of her exclusive beauty salons and how they blurred and influenced the conceptual boundaries at the time among fashion, art galleries, the domestic interior and versions of modernism is explored by Marie J. Clifford (Winterthur Portfolio, vol. 38). A feature-length documentary film, The Powder and the Glory (2009) by Ann Carol Grossman and Arnie Reisman, details the rivalry between Rubenstein and Elizabeth Arden.

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Helena Rubinstein's Timeline

1870
December 25, 1870
Cracow
1890
1890
- 1965
Age 19
AUSTRALIA (?)
1890
- 1965
Age 19
AUSTRALIA (?)
1908
June 7, 1908
Age 37
London
1909
December 12, 1909
Age 38
London
1912
1912
Age 41
LONDON, ENGLAND
1938
1938
Age 67
NEW YORK, N Y
1965
April 1, 1965
Age 94
New York City