Nine-year-old Josephine Metzger took her time walking home from school. She was carrying a note from her teacher and wasn’t looking forward to presenting it to her mother.
It was a bright and sunny May 5th, 1911 in Corona, Queens, New York.
She dragged her feet as she neared her home. For a few minutes, she leaned against a street sign, just watching the customers at the hardware store. Naturally, they were mostly men, but there were a few women also. Just plain house-wives, Italian most of them. Nothing remarkable about them. But Josephine took note of their pale faces, lined as they were with wrinkles and scars brought on by the natural processes of age and motherhood.
“They really could be so much more beautiful,” she thought.
She was about to go and talk to one of them when she noticed her mother in the kitchen window above her father’s store. She was waving for her to come up. Josephine blushed and tried to hide the paper behind her back but was sure that her mother had already noticed it. She dashed across the street.
“Hello Papa!” she yelled to her father as she hustled through the store and up the rickety stairs.
“What have I told you about staying out of the sun?” her mother scolded as she entered, “and what have you got there?”
Josephine glumly gave her the note.
Her mother read it silently, shaking her head.
“Esty, you can’t bring your uncle’s creams to school. And when did your teacher start calling you by your nick-name? She spelled it wrong, too. It’s pretty that way.”
Josephine, “Esty”, became Estée. When she married, Metzger became Lauter.
And when she posthumously received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, she was Estée Lauder, depression-era cosmetics dealer turned worldwide icon.