Lydia O'Leary

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Lydia O'Leary (1900-1982) was the inventor of foundation makeup designed to cover birthmarks and discolorations; she received a patent for her invention in 1932. Her successful company, Covermark Beauty, is still in existence.[1]

O'Leary was born in Bedford, Massachusetts with a large port-wine stain birthmark on the left side of her face. She graduated from the Fitchburg Normal School for Teachers (now Fitchburg State University) in 1921. After two years of teaching, she moved to New York to try to break into retail sales, but was unable to find employment because of the birthmark[2] (adherence to traditional standards of feminine beauty was a legal criteria for retail employment; now it is a form of employment discrimination). Corporate legend has it that she took a job painting cards and placards, corrected a painting mistake, and was inspired to begin to experiment with various formulas for consistency of coverage and tone.[3]

Her initial patent application was denied, but she was granted U.S. patent number 1877952 after an appeal hearing during which she dramatically removed her makeup to expose the port-wine stain that the reviewers had not been aware of.[4]

O'Leary went on to found the successful cosmetics company Covermark, diversifying into other beauty and skincare products. She married New York grocery magnate James Reeves (1890-1957) in 1945.[5] At her death, she lived at 740 Park Avenue in Manhattan.[6] She is remembered as a persistent entrepreneur[7] and creative company president.


  1. "Our History". CM Beauty,Inc. Retrieved 2022-12-28.
  2. "Cosmetics and Skin: Covermark". Retrieved 2022-12-28.
  3. "Lydia O'Leary | Lemelson". Retrieved 2022-12-28.
  4. White, Polly (1936). "Modern Miracle". Reader's Digest. 29: 8–12.
  5. Cantor, I. (1957-10-12). "JAMES REEVES, LED FOOD CHAIN; Co-Founder of Grocery Firm Merged With Safeway Dies --Headed Jayar Securities". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-12-28.
  6. Gross, Michael (2006-10-10). 740 Park: The Story of the World's Richest Apartment Building. Crown. ISBN 978-0-7679-1744-5.
  7. Casey, Susan (1997). Women Invent!: Two Centuries of Discoveries That Have Shaped Our World. Chicago Review Press. ISBN 978-1-56976-511-1.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link)

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