Mary Kay Ash

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Mary Kay Ash
Mary Kay Ash.jpg
Mary Kathlyn Wagner

(1918-05-12)May 12, 1918
DiedNovember 22, 2001(2001-11-22) (aged 83)
OccupationFounder of Mary Kay Cosmetics
Ben Rogers
(m. 1935;div. 1945)

George Hallenbeck
(m. 1963;died 1963)

Melville J. Ash
(m. 1966;died 1980)
ChildrenRichard Rogers
Ben Rogers Jr
Marylin Reed
Parent(s)Edward Alexander Wagner
Lula Vember Hastings

Mary Kay Ash (May 12, 1918 – November 22, 2001) was an American businesswoman and founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, Inc. At her death, her personal fortune was $98 million. Her company had more than $1.2 billion in sales and an international sales force of more than eight hundred thousand in at least three dozen countries. [1]


Early life

Mary Kay Ash, born Mary Kathlyn Wagner in Hot Wells, Harris County, Texas, was the daughter of Edward Alexander and Lula Vember Hastings Wagner. [2] Her mother was trained as a nurse and later became a manager of a restaurant in Houston. [3] Ash attended Dow Elementary School and Reagan High School in Houston, and graduated in 1934. [4]

Ash married Ben Rogers at age 17. They had 3 children, Ben Jr., Marylin Reed, and Richard Rogers. While her husband served in World War II, she sold books door-to-door. After her husband's return in 1945, they divorced. (missing reference) She later married the brother of Mary C. Crowley, founder of Home Interiors and Gifts. [5]


Ash went to work for Stanley Home Products. [6] Frustrated when passed over for a promotion in favor of a man that she had trained, Ash retired in 1963 and intended to write a book to assist women in business. The book turned into a business plan for her ideal company, and in the summer of 1963, Mary Kay Ash and her new husband, George Hellenbeck, [2] planned to start Mary Kay Cosmetics. However, one month before Mary Kay and George started Beauty by Mary Kay, as the company was then called, George died of a heart attack. [2] One month after George's death on September 13, 1963 when she was 45 years old [3] with a $5,000 investment from her oldest son, Ben Rogers, Jr. and with her young son, Richard Rogers taking her late husband's place, Ash started Mary Kay Cosmetics. The company started its original storefront operation " Beauty By Mary Kay" in Dallas. They used a five‐hundred‐square‐foot storefront with nine saleswomen signed up. [3] She copied the same “house party” model used by Stanley, Tupperware, and others. A Mary Kay representative would invite her friends over for free facials, then pitch the products. Profits rolled in, with double‐digit growth every year. [7]

According to Gavenas:

Mary Kay was a very visible, very active, and almost ridiculously feminine‐looking role model: a God‐fearing, hard‐working, immaculately groomed mother of three who was doing everything within in her power to see other women get ahead, and who loved mentoring so much that she referred to her saleswomen as her “daughters.” Also unlike Avon, Mary Kay made her saleswomen more profit per unit: a Mary Kay lipstick cost roughly double the price of an Avon lipstick and hence made twice the profit, while the home‐party format meant that several customers could be approached at once....Mary Kay made her company purposely inclusive, enabling her rapid expansion into Australia, South America, Europe, and Asia. [8]


Both during her life and posthumously, Ash received numerous honors from business groups, including the Horatio Alger Award. In 1980, Ash received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement. [9] Ash was inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame in 1996. A long-time fundraiser for charities, she founded the Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation to raise money to combat domestic violence and cancers affecting women. Ash served as Mary Kay Cosmetics' chairman until 1987, when she was named Chairman Emeritus. Fortune magazine recognized Mary Kay Inc. with inclusion in "The 100 best companies to work for in America." The company was also named one of the best 10 companies for women to work. Her most recent acknowledgements were the "Equal Justice Award" from Legal Services of North Texas in 2001, and "Most Outstanding Woman in Business in the 20th Century" from Lifetime Television in 1999. [6]

Mary Kay Cosmetics, Inc.

Ash and her partners, which included her son, Richard, took the multi-level marketing company public in 1968. In 1985, the company's board decided to take the company private again after seventeen years as a public company. Ash remained active in Mary Kay Cosmetics, Inc. until suffering a stroke in 1996. Richard Rogers was named CEO of Mary Kay Cosmetics, Inc. in 2001. At the time of Ash's death, Mary Kay Cosmetics had over 800,000 representatives in 37 countries, with total annual sales over $200 million. As of 2014, Mary Kay Cosmetics has more than 3 million consultants worldwide and wholesale volume in excess of 3 billion.[ citation needed ]


Ash was the author of several books, including "Mary Kay", an autobiography in 1994, "Miracles Happen" and You Can Have It All in 1995. Her first book called "Mary Kay on People Management" was published in 1984 and the publisher Nightingale Conant produced an audio program written by Ash with the same title as the book.


Mary Kay Ash died on November 22, 2001. Mary Kay Ash is interred in the Sparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery in Dallas, Texas. (reference missing)


  1. Gavenas, 2008.
  2. 1 2 3 Leavitt, Judith A. (1985) American Women Managers and Administrators Greenwood Publishing, Westport, Connecticut, p. 14, ISBN   0-313-23748-4
  3. 1 2 3 Ash, Mary Kay. Mary Kay , October 1981, Harper & Row, ISBN   0-06-014878-0
  4. "Distinguished Archived 2012-05-15 at the Wayback Machine ." Houston Independent School District .
  5. Myerson, Allen R. (13 July 1994). "From At-Home Parties To a $1 Billion Buyout". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 February 2020.
  6. 1 2 "Mary Kay Ash - Most Outstanding Woman in Business in the 20th Century". 2010-06-14. Retrieved 2012-02-21.
  7. Gavenas, 2008
  8. Gavenas, 2008
  9. "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". American Academy of Achievement.

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