Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Evelyn Lauder

After Estee Lauder, a household name, Evelyn Lauder (pictured with Sir Elton John and Candice Bergen), one of the two daughters-in-law, wife of the eldest son, Leonard, is the most prominent Lauder in New York social and philanthropic circles, in a solid partnership with her husband. Following in the footsteps of a powerful mother-in-law must have been a major challenge for a girl who started out adult life as a schoolteacher and spent her early married life as an attentive mother (to two boys). In The List in memoriam, it is said that Estee very much approved of her eldest son’s selection of a wife.

The Lauder family, both mother and sons – Leonard and Ronald, and their wives and now their children, have been active in New York philanthropic and civic affairs since Estee and Joseph Lauder established the family’s position in the community. As the family business thrived over the past four decades and the family wealth accumulated, they have conscientiously exploited their assets by giving back. As a result, the two sons and their wives (Jo Carole is wife of Ronald – they are now separated) are one of the most highly regarded leading families in New York, giving generously to the arts (both brothers have large and important art collections), culture and public institutions such as hospitals and the Library.

In 1993, Evelyn, however, took the family philanthropy one step further and created the Breast Cancer Research Fund to combat the disease that has become epidemic for American women. In the past eleven years, since the BCRF’s founding, she and her supporters have raised more than $120 million for breast cancer research. Her annual benefit gala which is held every year at the Waldorf is one of the biggest drawing fundraisers in the social season. Sir Elton John is also a committed contributor to the event.

She’s one of those New York women who uses her advantages to get the most out of her days (often with formidable schedules) and to provide much to others. She and her husband entertain at private dinners frequently. They also are in attendance at many of the events on the crowded social calendar during the season. They travel, both alone as a couple, and in groups, and enjoy friendships all over the world. I’ve never seen her interact with her children, daughters-in-law and grandchildren, but there is a very strong sense of mother and nurturing about her that surely her family experiences.

As a young woman she started out life in one of the city’s boroughs as a schoolteacher intent on preparing her students thoroughly. You might wonder what it must have been like for that young woman to marry into a world that was dominated (and for decades) by the brilliant and highly motivated mama Estee. And from observing the daughter-in-law, as I have, you might conclude that she consciously chose a path of wisdom and rose to the occasion, and then some. It is difficult for me to eschew flattery when portraying Evelyn Lauder; she’s a game girl who sets her mark and achieves it, all the while with kindness and courtesy.