The Influential Life of STLCF Donor Edna Emme: Founder of TRESemmé
“If a woman is feeling low in her mind, a trip to the beauty shop will pep her up every time.”
– Edna Emme
Edna L. Emme, a beauty pioneer during the 1940s and on, knew the emotional importance of how women feel about their hair. At the same time, she knew the social importance of women joining the workforce. When these two passions of hers came together, the outcome was incredible – Edna founded TRESemmé hair products in 1947. Her legacy lives on the St. Louis Community Foundation (STLCF) through her endowment fund called the E. Emme Family Trust.
Born in St. Louis, Edna began her career during the mid-1920s at her sister’s salon according to Cosmopolitan. It was during this time that Edna realized women exude confidence when their hair is professionally styled, fueling her desire to give women this feeling all the time. Edna’s time at the salon inspired TRESemmé, whose mission is to bring professionally styled hair to the home. With this dream in mind, Edna soon became a leading figure in the start of the American cosmetology industry.
In a time when women held less than 15% of management positions, Edna worked from the production floor all the way up to Vice President of Godefroy Manufacturing Company, all the while pushing for more women to have roles like hers. Edna’s dream became a reality when Godefroy launched the new brand, TRESemmé, into beauty salons across the nation in 1947.
Edna continued to fight against the prejudices that kept women out of workplaces throughout the entirety of her career. She spoke at governmental conferences and traveled from city to city as a lecturer on these topics. Edna was the founder of the National Hairdressers and Cosmetologists Association, where she was elected President of the group five times. She used her platform as the President to advocate for women’s representation in business. When Edna passed away at the age of 96 in 1995, she left an incredible legacy, both through her company and her humanitarianism.
Amy Murphy, Director of Donor Relations and Services at the STLCF, believes that Emme held a special place in her heart for the people of St. Louis. Being a discretionary fund, the STLCF can use the E. Emme Family Trust for any needs in the community. The Trust started with $1.7 million after her death and has $2.2 million today.
“We were just one of the beneficiaries from her estate, and Ms. Emme’s legacy has done so much good,” Murphy said. To date, the E. Emme Family Trust has granted around $1.1 million to St. Louis nonprofits, including Forest ReLeaf, St. Louis for Kids, Hope Happens, Opera Theatre of St. Louis for the show “Dream of the Pacific,” as well as commemorating the Lewis and Clarke expedition and other Community Foundation initiatives and collaborations.
Murphy believes that “the true visionaries of the world don’t look for solutions that help themselves, but actually those that will help the future.” By this standard, Emme was an exemplary visionary for her time.
TRESemmé, which incorporates their Edna’s namesake, stems from the French word “très-aimé”, meaning well loved. Leading a well-loved, influential, philanthropic life, Edna Emme’s legacy will continue to live on in the world of beauty – and at the St. Louis Community Foundation, where her charitable giving will continue to touch lives forever.