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How The Breast Cancer Awareness Pink Ribbon Came To Be

Self magazine, cosmetics company Estee Lauder and some unlikely events linked the pink ribbon to breast cancer awareness.
Posted at 8:06 AM, Oct 21, 2015

When you think of breast cancer, it's hard not to think of the pink ribbon. But how did the symbol get its start?

According to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation, a ribbon was first used to symbolize a cause during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis.

Yellow ribbons came to symbolize the Gulf War and AIDS activists. Tony Award winner Jeremy Irons championed the red ribbon, and the small loop of fabric was well on its way as a badge to rally around.

Around that same time, a woman named Charlotte Haley started sending out postcards with a peach ribbon attached to raise awareness about breast cancer. The cards, which stated only 5 percent of the National Institutes of Health budget went to cancer prevention, were a grassroots effort to "wake up legislators and America."

In the fall of 1991, cosmetics company Estee Lauder and Self magazine teamed up for the magazine's second-annual breast cancer awareness issue. They reportedly wanted to distribute Haley's peach ribbon, but she chose to keep her campaign grassroots. (Video via Estee Lauder)

So the pink ribbon was born. Estee Lauder distributed the ribbon in its New York City stores.

The Breast Cancer Research Foundation reports today Estee Lauder has raised more than $47 million for research, often through percentages of certain products' sales.

One of the biggest breast cancer charities, the Susan G. Komen foundation, first handed out pink ribbons to participants and breast cancer survivors during the 1991 Race for the Cure in New York City. (Video via Susan G. Komen

Today, the pink ribbon is widely recognized as a symbol for breast cancer awareness and is worn proudly throughout politics, sports and pop culture. (Videos via NBCNFL and KDFW)

This video includes images from Getty Images.