March 04, 2023
African American Women History/ Black Women in History pt2
Madam C.J.Walker was one of the most well known names behind African American hair care and beauty products. She is credited with an array of beauty products, hair canditioners, facial creams and especially made for women of color.
Madam Walker built a fortune in the 19th century with the sales of such products. She was the first known African-American women in history to become a self-made Millionaire. Madam C.J.Walker was born Sara Breedlove in 1867 under very poor conditions in Delta Louisiana. The daughter of former slaves, her parents worked as sharecroppers. She was orphaned before the age of eight.
In 1894 at the age of 14 she married Moses McWilliams and had a child, her name was Leila. It was said that her husband died two years latter after being lynched. In 1887 she married John Davis but this marriage ended just six years latter. She took her daughter and moved to St.Louis to be near her four brothers who were barbers. The stess of her daily struggles took a toll on her body. She began suffering hair lose.
She became embarrassed by her appearance and began experimenting with home remedies and products made by another black women, Anne Malone. However it is not clear if the products actually worked. In 1905 she had become a sales agent for the Malone Company. She sold ”Wonderful Hair Grower,” Glossine” pressing oil and ”Vegetable Shampoo” door-to -door.
She continued to experiment with home remedies for her own personal use;” eventually she developed her own recipes. She also began instructing women on hair and scalp treatments. The hair care market was very competitive in St.Louis; this prompted her to consider relocating. In that same year her brother died, she decided to move to Denver and live with her sister-in-law.
In Denver she met and married Charles Joseph Walker and changed her name to Madam CJ Walker. Being short of money when she arrived. She worked as a cook and continued to pursue her part-time business venture. She founded her own business which she called it Madam Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower. A scap and hair treatment. She marketed her products in black newspapers through out the country.
She moved the company from Denver to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After some time her daughter was brought into the business as a manager. She also expaned her business internationally to Jamaica, Cuba, Costa Rica, Panama and Haiti. It was noted that by 1919 Madam Walker employed nearly 3,000 people at the factory and had more than 20,000 agents.
Madam Walker was not only a beauty product entrepreneur but also a local philanthropist. She was known for donating large sums of money to black charities in the Indianapolis area. Madam C.J. Walker died on May, 1919 at the age of 52. She was greatly admired in the black community.
She is one of the many African American Women in history that is remembered as inspiring others. In 1998, the United States Postal Service issued the Madam C.J. Walker commemorative stamp as a part of Black Heritage Series.