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Florence E Wall – First Female Medal Recipient of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists

Often, I wonder about the history of our industry. So I’ve been collecting old cosmetic formularies and books. They tend to be rare. There were only two copies of my latest purchase, published in 1935, available on Amazon. That book is Canitics: The Art and Science of Hair Dyeing, written by Florence Wall. It appears that Florence was one of the first women to be recognized as a cosmetic chemist and the first female medalist in the Society of Cosmetic Chemists. cosmetic chemist florence wall

Florence Wall

Florence Wall was born in Patterson, NJ in 1893. She attended the College of St. Elizabeth and graduated with Bachelors’ degrees in Arts and Education and honors in both English and Chemistry. There were few opportunities for women in chemistry at the time, so Florence spent time teaching high school science.

World War I opened doors for women in many careers when men were sent off to war. Florence began working as an industrial chemist and later a cosmetic chemist. In 1924 she took a position at the leading manufacturer of hair dyes, Inecto, Inc. She was to be a liaison between the lab and the salon where product testing occurred.

Soon, her technical writing skills and knowledge of several languages caused a change in course and she was put in charge of library research and the department of technical advice. Shortly thereafter she was asked to write a text on the science of hair dye and coined the term canitics to mean the art and science of hair dyeing. Florence continued to write throughout her career. She published 5 books and published over 300 articles.

Inetco created the Notox Institute for postgraduate education in hair dyeing and Florence was charged with developing the curriculum. Soon after, Inetco purchased the Marinello Company, a beauty and cosmetology school still in existence today. Florence began developing curriculum for the Marinello schools as well.

Florence fought for recognition of cosmetic science as a true science and was involved in updates to the Food, Drug and Cosmetic legislation. She attended hearings and worked closely with Senator Royal Copeland. She intended to fight scientific inaccuracies and ensure accurate representation of the cosmetic industry.  She earned her doctorate at the New York University School of Education.

Dr Wall continued writing and lecturing late into her career and even set up a class in cosmetic hygiene at New York University. She was inducted into the Cosmetology Hall of Fame at the New York World’s Fair in 1965. Florence passed away at the age of 95 in 1965.

{ 5 comments… add one }

  • Kelly Ames Smith 10/09/2015, 9:29 am

    She was my cousin. She actually passed away much later. Trying to
    Remember but I think it was 1989 :)
    Otherwise, great article. ( she also studied under MMe Curie and taught about the damaging effects of radiation. She testified before Confress in this as well and was instrumental in a famous case about painting the face of watches with flourscent paint. The women in the factory would roll the tips of the brushes on their tongues to get a fine point :(.
    She taught safety and was one of the few who loved to tell the story as s result.
    She had great advice on makeup. Lip color should be the color of the inside mouth part of your lips, eye shadow should be the color of the shadow on the inside beside of the nose- etc.
    she wrote the book for the Wilfed Accademy of Beauty. She taught facial and neck massage techniques to Christine Valmy. She never has a wrinkle, herself- well into her 90’s- used all- natural beauty products fromeggs, mayonnaise and so forth!
    ( oh and she had a great story about riding along with hootch -runners one night in the mountains of West VA!)

  • Kelly Ames Smith 10/09/2015, 9:12 am

    She was my beloved Second cousin once removed. She was the greatest friend and source of inspiration and encouragement, too!

    • Kelly Dobos 10/09/2015, 9:23 am

      So great to hear this! I love learning and writing about the history of cosmetic science, especially the contributions of women in the field. Please let us know if you have any additional information or resources to share and help us celebrate Florence.

  • Karen Chun 08/28/2014, 10:06 pm

    Loved reading this Kelly!

  • Mica Oba 08/21/2014, 11:03 am

    This was a fun read, Kelly! Thanks for sharing. :)

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