T H E M A K I N G O F A T I TA N
The year is 1938. The red door of the Elizabeth Arden House on Summerville’s Sumter Avenue is radiant in the afternoon sun as a young woman stands before it. Far more than merely the entrance to a masterpiece of Victorian architecture, it is representative of her life; the accomplishments of a bright, beautiful woman, blazing a trail across an industry and unknowingly setting a course for one who will eventually bring her amazing achievements full circle. Elizabeth Arden’s story began in 1884, when a modest Scottish grocer and his wife welcomed their fifth child into the world on the last day of December, with no inkling that the baby girl they providentially named for a famous nursing pioneer would change the face of the world. They did not know that the New Year she greeted marked the
AZALEAMAG.COM Winter 2018
start of a fantastic journey for tiny Florence Nightingale Graham, a journey that would prove her to be a pioneer in her own right. Life was not easy for Graham, who worked odd jobs throughout her early youth to help support her family. Her inquisitive mind led her to train as a nurse, but it was not her destiny to follow in the footsteps of her namesake. Leaving her family for New York, she went to work as a bookkeeper for E.R. Squibb Pharmaceuticals. At night, Graham explored the company’s labs, curious about the skincare products created there. With a flawless complexion that belied her thirty years, she found her niche at a cosmetic shop, rising through the ranks to become a partner in its salon. When that partnership ended, she borrowed $6,000, changed her name to Elizabeth Arden, and in 1909, opened The Red Door Beauty Salon on New York’s Fifth Avenue.