Mary Kay Ash, born Mary Kathlyn Wagner in Hot Wells, Harris County, Texas. Ash married Ben Rogers at age 17. They had three children. While her husband served in World War II, she sold books door-to-door. After her husband’s return in 1945, they divorced.
Ash went to work for Stanley Home Products. 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 Arthur Hallenbeck, planned to start Mary Kay Cosmetics. However, one month before Ash and Hallenbeck started Beauty by Mary Kay, as the company was then called, Hallenbeck died of a heart attack. One month after Hallebeck’s death on on September 13, 1963 when she was 45 years old 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 in Dallas.
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.