History of Martha Hill
Beauty is in Every Age
Speech written by Martha in 1976.
Beauty is in every age. Throughout history great artists have recorded in their paintings this ageless quality, from the youthful bloom of the cherub, to the inner beauty of advancing age. So little wonder, that we delve back to find out what nature has to show us.
But why did Martha Hill bring out her four natural herbal and plant skin-care products?
Tragedy and Farming
As a designer, meeting fashion writers and people in the public eye, I was often asked how I kept my skin glowing with health. It all goes back to my farming years. Having opted out of fashion and large manufacturing to have my son and daughter, their father and I decided to put all our energies into farming. My husband had come through the war years, and having known the horror of wartime flying and the deeply felt loss of his younger brother killed in the airforce, he longed for the peace of the country. But with an ironical twist that fate sometimes deals, he was killed in I947 flying his own plane. My daughter was born fourteen days later. After the failure of my first marriage this dreadful blow put a full stop on all my hopes for the future. I knew that work, work and more work was the only answer and any thought of myself was meaningless. I steeled myself to hard physical toil. The farm kept me fully occupied and time the healer helped as only it can. With horror I saw what neglect had done to my skin - washing, dust, wind and sun had all played their destructive part. Before, I had always used the most expensive creams and cosmetics, and now in my thirty-sixth year friends were pulling me out of my shell and urging me to move around. And with my children growing up, l felt they would surely want their mother to care about her appearance. I had no time for the past life of hours spent in beauty parlours, so I began to work out my own formula of treatments with herbs and old country remedies. My mother told me how my grandmother cared for her skin and she had maintained a serene beauty in her nineties. My mother also had her secrets to share with me about the care of her skin. She is now in her ninetieth year and her complexion is still fresh and glowing. Of course, many people say on seeing her that a good skin is hereditary and whilst this is sometimes true, one still has to persevere to maintain and protect what nature has given us, particularly now, with the added ravages of dirt, pollution and central heating.
I researched and learnt from all available sources, failing and succeeding until I had weeded out the ones that really worked. My children will remember the strange sight of their mother with pieces of herbs. Plants and fruits stuck on my face, legs, arms, hands and hair, and laugh to this day about it. No memory for them of the sweet lavender smelling lady, but odd smells and a weird appearance. At least it has given them a unique image of their mother. I was working really hard to eradicate the neglect I had allowed to happen.
My reward was in 1948. I had thrown all my energies into breeding a herd of prize pedigree Guernseys and was now invited to go to Marshall Field's estate on Long Island, New York, to see their herd. With a small son and daughter l to America on the Queen Mary and during the whole of my trip, people repeatedly were complimenting me on my 'English Rose' complexion.
Back into Fashion
In the early fifties I was urged back into Fashion. The need to create had always been a part of life. During the war years I had turned to utility mass needs in manufacturing, employing over 600 operatives and 100 outdoor workers but tired of repetition I felt I must now establish the name Martha Hill. I started to meet buyers, not wholesalers and so began to be nearer to the public, after launching the name Martha Hill with a Show at The Dorchester. I had always wanted more direct contact with the public and now my designing flair was being noted by the Press and avant-garde. "What Martha Hill does this year we will do next" said the manufacturers. I was so advanced with my ideas that in some cases my designs were one or two years ahead. Even the emerging Mary Quant, wearing pigtails, had bought them for her shop Bazarre.
I curtailed my farming activities and devoted myself wholly to design. During this period I met and married an Egyptian Diplomat and he re-awoke my curiosity about beauty. He had studied at his various postings throughout the world and had compiled many books on beauty formulas. I tried and experimented with success and failure. Such as the amusing experience of bathing in milk which would have otherwise been thrown away. The results were initially wonderful but alas destructive due to the high acid content on the skin. As I learnt more and more, I became convinced that my research into plants and herbs was the real base for my Beauty Care range.
London and the Sixties
In the sixties I opened my country shops in Uppingham, Oundle and Stamford. I gleaned immense knowledge from the country people I met. But alas, I could not be in all these places at once and decided to open in London, closing down the small shops which divided my time. The Beatles opened down the road but their shop was a financial disaster. This was the 'everything goes' era of the Swinging Sixties. Kings Road was the mecca and a second shop was opened there. Despite tempting offers to be taken over, I clung to my own judgement, and the Press began to write and promote me. Fashion Editors bought my clothes to wear. My daughter was doing the round of the deb parties and made news in the Royal Enclosure at Ascot, with the mini-skirt. Every paper carried her picture. One paper quoted me as saying that the mini would get even shorter and girls would have to wear tights. The Rolling Stones, Beatles and Twiggy were all pictured with my clothes. My name was now news. Not bad for someone in her fifties when it was the young who were calling the tune.
Launch of my Beauty Care
I still wanted to start my Beauty Care, and it was a chance meeting whilst sitting on a panel judging a Beauty Show at Granby Halls in Leicester, that I met again an old journalist friend who had written extensively on health and beauty. I told her of my desire to bring out a complete Herbal Beauty Care range, and she put me in touch with a manufacturer in Switzerland who was the one that stood out in her mind as the best in manufacturing of top class products. The Firm had been in existence for fifty years and she urged me to pay him a visit in Switzerland. As a Doctor and Chemist, he was immediately interested in my project and worked with me tirelessly on this. He was particularly intrigued for my demand for the minimum cost of packaging as previously everyone in the beauty care field insisted on expensive packaging and promotion.
Having lunch with Lady Dowding, the Founder of Beauty Without Cruelty. I shared with her the dislike of cruel exploitation of animals when alternative methods were available. My products were passed by Beauty Without Cruelty and also The Vegan Society, since they are naturally 100% animal free. In making my range, I was aware that my customers wanted products that were light in weight, unbreakable, took up the minimum of space when travelling, but above all the product itself was the most important factor. I did not wish to embark on a large advertising campaign so each product would stand or fall on its own merit and by personal recommendation from its users. I was amazed at the editorial press I was given. Beauty Editors were delighted with the products and one lady on The Sunday Times quoted "...the creams by word of mouth and sheer results have really taken off. I was able to tell Martha quite truthfully that my Doctor had asked me if l had had a face lift, I was looking so good..."
In 1974, my four inter-linked Skin-Care products, consisting of Cleanser, Herbal Gel, Day-Cream, and Night Cream, were available to the public through my London shop and via Mail Order. I was thrilled by the faith that was shown in me by famous actresses, personalities and models, who were willing to use them, and in doing so proved them to be a success and are still using them after four years, to maintain a glowing healthy look. Also by the thousands of delighted letters from all over the world congratulating me on their results.
Caring for you
My aim is to learn from Nature and to improve and maintain what she has given us in health and beauty. The face and body are the challenge I love. Individuality can be brought forth - eyes, lips, noses and shape have their message. Not for me the mass look of sameness but one's personality high-lighted. Surely three to five minutes night and morning to protect ones skin is a small sacrifice. My reply to the lady who said "I do not care what I look like", is "What a pity, because other people have to look at you". Far better, the ladies who bring along their daughters knowing the importance of starting a correct beauty routine in their teens to preserve their skin.
I would like to thank finally, all my family and friends who made this possible by becoming my guinea pigs during the five years of experimentation prior to my products reaching the public. Even men are now using them too for their shaving routine.
Martha, aged 65.