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Helena Rubinstein. Pioneer of Beauty

  • Jewish Museum Vienna Judenplatz Wien, Wien, 1010 Austria (map)
Helena Rubinstein (c) Archive / Archives Helena Rubinstein, Paris / Jewish Museum Vienna

Helena Rubinstein (c) Archive / Archives Helena Rubinstein, Paris / Jewish Museum Vienna

From the Jewish Museum Vienna:

Helena Rubinstein was a pioneer in female entrepreneurship. It did not come easily to her. She was born in the 1870s in Kraków as the oldest of eight daughters and grew up in modest circumstances in an orthodox Jewish family. After a stopover in Vienna, where she worked in her aunt’s fur store and collected the first ideas for her later career, she emigrated to Australia and worked initially as a children’s nanny.

She began to sell creams imported from Poland and founded her first beauty salon. In order to develop her own products, she handed over the business to two of her sisters and left for Paris. In 1912 she invented the first system for identifying skin types. She founded beauty salons in Paris and London.

In 1914, by now married, she emigrated with her two children and husband to the USA, where she continued to develop her own cosmetic line, which from the 1920s also bore her name. Her business grew rapidly. By the time of her death in 1965 it had 100 branches in fourteen countries and around 30,000 employees.

Her private assets amounted to over 100 million US dollars. She was a patron of the arts and sciences, setting up a fund to support art students and financing the Helena Rubenstein Pavilion, a museum for modern art, in Tel Aviv. She established a faculty of chemistry at the University of Massachusetts and in 1953 founded the Helena Rubinstein Foundation, which continues to support women scientists today. The exhibition will look at her life, particularly the years in Vienna.

Curator: Iris Meder
Coordination: Danielle Spera and Werner Hanak-Lettner
Assistance: Denise Landau and Dominik Cobanoglu