New York City, Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop and one of Britain’s leading female retailers, died Monday after suffering a brain hemorrhage. She was 64.
Roddick announced in February that she had cirrhosis of the liver, caused by hepatitis C she acquired during a blood transfusion 36 years ago when she was giving birth to her youngest daughter. She didn’t find out about the infection until two years ago.
A self-described flower child of the 1960s, Roddick pioneered the concept of natural cosmetics decades before they became fashionable. She launched The Body Shop in 1976 to support herself and her two children.
The Body Shop’s promotion of recycling and its use of suppliers among indigenous people in developing countries made the British company a phenomenon. In 1984, the company went public, and shares rose more than 50% on the first day. But in the mid-’90s, it began to languish and competitors stepped into the breach.
In 1997, the Roddicks unsuccessfully tried to take the Body Shop private with the aim of turning it into a charity. Roddick stepped down as chief executive the next year, and she and her husband stepped down as co-chairmen of the company in 2002. She retained a role as consultant after The Body Shop was purchased in 2006 by L’Oreal Group for $1.2 billion.
Throughout her career, Roddick was an outspoken supporter of free trade and human rights. In 1994, The Body Shop Canada launched the first STOP Violence Against Women campaign. And in 1997, the company launched the “Help Take the Heat Off” program, an environment campaign to raise awareness about climate change.
In recognition of her contribution to business and charity, Queen Elizabeth II made Roddick a dame, the female equivalent of knighthood, in 2003.