It all started when a woman by the name of Charlotte Hayley started to make peach-colored loops inspired by friends and family with breast cancer. Each set of five came with a card saying, “The National Cancer Institute annual budget is $1.8 billion, and only 5% goes for cancer prevention. Help us wake up our legislators by wearing this ribbon.”
Inspired by this woman, Evelyn Lauder, of Estee Lauder, and Alexandra Penny, of SELF magazine, wanted to use the ribbon on cosmetics distributed in New York City stores for an October breast awareness promotion in 1992. Knowing the determination of Charlotte Hayley, they asked her to partner with them in this endeavor. According to Penny, Charlotte wanted nothing to do with them, saying, “You are too commercial.” Estee Lauder really wanted to use the ribbon, so they consulted with their lawyers. They were told that they could use the ribbon idea, but not the same color as Charlotte had. They changed the color to PINK and not realizing, created an icon to be recognized by all.
In the fall of 1992, Estee Lauder cosmetic counters handed out 1.5 million ribbons, each attached to a card describing how to do a breast exam. They collected more than 200,000 pink ribbon petitions urging the White House to push for increased funding for research. The petition was presented to First Lady Hillary Clinton at a special ceremony in 1993.
In 2004, Estee Lauder changed the ribbon color to hot pink to draw attention to ongoing achievements in the fight to end breast cancer. By October 2009, more than 85 million ribbons had been distributed worldwide.