Madame C.J. Walker

Madame C.J. Walker

Sarah Breedlove also known as Madam C.J. Walker was born in Delta, Louisana on  the 23rd December 1867. Under the company she founded, Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company, she launched a line of hair products and beauty creams that propelled her to success. She was well known as a philanthropist as well. Born into a family of former slaves, Walker was the first free child to be born after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. She is well known as not just the first African-American and drfemale millionaire in the US as well.

When Sarah’s parents passed away she moved in with her sister and brother-in-law. As her sister’s husband abused her, she married Moses McWilliams at 14. When her husband died she was left with her two year-old-daughter. In order to support her new baby, Breedlove moved to St. Louis where three of her brothers lived. They were barbers and it was from them, that Sarah initially learnt about hair care. Later, she worked for Annie Malone who was an African-American hair care entrepreneur. It was as she worked with Malone that she learnt more about hair care and hair products. Inspired,  she moved to Denver to try her own hand at hair care and it’s techniques, which was how she met Charles Joseph Walker. Soon after, Sarah Breedlove emerged as not just his wife but an independent hairdresser and the retailer of  renown cosmetics creams, who went by the snazzy name Madam C.J Walker.

In 1906, Madam C.J Walker put her daughter in charge of the mail order operation as she and her new husband toured the Southern and Eastern United States in order to be able to discuss and put to practice, the expansion of the new business. Eventually Madam Walker and her husband settled in Pittsburgh in 1908 where Sarah opened Lelia College with the aim of providing training to ‘beauty culturists’ as they were known in the early 20th century. In 1910, Madam Walker moved to Indianapolis where she established a beauty school for her sales agents, a hair salon and a factory.

As Madam C.J. Walker’s success grew, she convened the first annual conference of the Madam Walker Beauty Culturists in Philadelphia in 1917.  Soon after she also began to give other women training on grooming, budgeting and how to be independent in order to enable to them to learn how to expand their own businesses. Madam Walker also began the first annual conference for women to meet for business affairs when she convened the Walker Hair Culturists Union of America Convention in 1917. The same year, Madam Walker also commissioned the first black architect in New York, Vertner Tardy to design a house for her in Irvington-on-Hudson, New York. The house cost $250, 000 to build. Madam C.J Walker suffered from hypertension and as such died from complications from the disease on the 25 May 1919 at Villa Lewaro. She was 51 years old and contrary to her own expectations about not being a millionaire before her death, Madam C.J Walker died as the wealthiest African-American woman at the time.

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