Madam C.J. Walker - First African American Self-made Female Millionaire

“There is no royal flower-strewn path to success. And if there is, I have not found it.” Madame C. J. Walker

Image from: https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/madame-c-j-walker


Sarah Breedlove, also known as Madam C.J. Walker was born on December 22, 1867 near Delta, Louisiana. Her parents have recently freed slaves and were one of total of five kids on the family. Her mother, Minerva, died in 1876 and her father the following year when Sarah reached the age of seven, which made her an orphan. Thus she went to live with her sister, Louvinia, and her brother in law. They all later moved to Vicksburg, Mississippi in 1877 where Sarah picked cotton.


As Sarah grew older, she grew impatient with the mistreatment and by the age of 14, she married Moses McWilliams. he gave birth to her daughter A'Lelia on June 6, 1885. Her husband died after two years and so she moved to St.Louis with her daughter to her brother's who worked as barbers. Working as a washerwoman, Sarah earned $1.50, enough to send her daughter to a public school and study in a public night school herself. It was in the same city she met her husband, Charles J. Walker who worked in an advertisement.


Breedlove developed a scalp disorder in her 20's which sparked her mission in finding a cure. By 1905, she started working in Denver, Colorado for Annie Turnbo Malone who was an African American hair care entrepreneur.


Around the same time, Sarah and her husband started traveling around the South and Southeast promoting her hair care treatment by the name "Madam C.J. Walker" as well as her "Walker Method" involving her formula, brushing, and the use of heated combs. By 1908, Madam opened a factory and a beauty school in Pittsburgh and later transferred her operation to Indianapolis. Her profits reached today's value of millions of dollars. She continued manufacturing cosmetics as well as training sales beauticians who were known as "Walker Agents". CLubs and conventions were also organized, which was a great economical, philathropic as well as educational improvement within the African American community.


Madam C.J. Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower.

Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift from Dawn Simon Spears and Alvin Spears, Sr.


Walker and Charles divorced in 1913 and she traveled Lain America and the Caribbean as she promoted her work. A'Lelia helped with purchasing a property in Harlem, New York for future business operations. The same year, she also donated the largest amount of money by an African American for the construction of an Indianapolis YMCA. Sarah returned in 1916 to Harlem and immersed herself in the social and political culture of the Harlem Renaissance.


Madam C.J. Walker also founded educational scholarships and donations to elderly homes, NAACP and National Conference on lynching were a few of organizations made to improve the lives of the African Americans.


“When we began to make $10 a day, my ex-husband thought that was enough, thought I ought to be satisfied. But I was convinced that my hair preparation would fill a long-felt want. And when we found it impossible to agree, due to his narrowness of vision, I embarked on business for myself.” Madame C. J. Walker


Reference

  1. https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/madame-c-j-walker

  2. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Madam-C-J-Walker

  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madam_C._J._Walker

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