FLORENCE GRAHAM BECOMES
MISS ELIZABETH ARDEN
New York 1907–1914
IT WOULD TAKE JUST three years for Florence Nightingale Graham to make her name, by which time she’d changed it. To begin with, when she was working her way up the career ladder, she called herself ‘Mrs Graham’, inventing a husband after the fashion of the time when ‘nice girls’ didn’t go out to work. Florence strove all her life to follow such social niceties, adapting her clothes, jewels, manners, and her voice, to suit her aspirations. She wanted to be treated like a lady and was determined her business would only look after real ladies. She held fast to her ambition to serve the upper echelons of WASP society, and the Elizabeth Arden label, founded in 1910, once it had achieved prestige status, retained it for the rest of her life.
Florence Graham found her first job in the beauty business as a cashier at Mrs Eleanor Adair’s on Fifth Avenue. Proud of her salons at 5 rue Cambon, Paris and at 92 New Bond Street, London, Mrs Adair’s big idea was a complex system of ‘muscle strapping’ using a bizarre leather and canvas contraption which hooked under the chin and tied over the head, promoted as being able to ‘lift the facial muscles and cure slack’. One unfortunate side effect was the total inability of her clients to talk, rather defeating the purpose of time spent in a beauty salon, where the intimate relationship between client and treatment specialist is all about chatting and gossiping, but Mrs Adair didn’t take much notice of that. She promoted her strapping system, called Ganesh, enthusiastically, claiming that combined with her Ganesh range of treatment creams and oils it would ‘make the face younger’. Her clients paid $2.50 a time for the privilege. The average working woman’s weekly wage in New York during 1907 was around $7, but as there was nothing average about Mrs Adair’s customers, price wasn’t