February 8, 2023
Madam CJ Walker -1914 (Source: Wikipedia)

Introduction

Madam C.J Walker was an African American hair care entrepreneur, philanthropist, business woman and activist. She was recorded on the Guiness Book of Records as the first female self-made millionaire in America. She was also the richest African American woman in the whole of America. She got her middle and last names (Charles Joseph Walker)  from her third husband.

Madam C.J Walker driving an automobile (Source: NYPL Digital Collections)

Birth: She was born with the name Sarah Breedlove on the 23rd of December, 1867 at the Delta, Fifth Military District in Louisiana, United States of America.

Death: She died from kidney failure and complications of hypertension at the age of 51 years on the 25th of May, 1919 at Irvington, New York, United States of America. She was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, New York.

Marriage: Madam C.J Walker got married three times during her lifetime. At the age of 14, she got married to Moses McWilliams in 1882 who later died in 1887. She then got married to John Davis in 1894 which she later divorced in 1904. In 1906, she married Charles Joseph Walker but they later divorced in 1912.

Children: She had just one daughter, Lelia McWilliams from her first marriage but after her mother and the third husband divorced, Lelia changed her surname to her stepfather’s name A’Lelia Walker after his death.

Family Members: She was born to Owen and Minerva (Anderson) Breedlove with 5 siblings; Louvenia (her older sister), and 4 brothers namely; Alexander, James, Solomon and Owen Jr. 

Religion: She was a christian and this was a major influence on her work as an activist.

Career: After working on a cotton farm, Sarah started working as a domestic servant at age 10 after being orphaned at age 7. She moved to Vickburg, Mississippi where she lived with her brother in-law James Powell. After her first marriage, Sarah with her daughter started working as a laundress at St. Louis where three of her brothers lived. She worked in the kitchens at a point in her life.

A Product of Madam CJ Walker Manufacturing Company (Source: Wikipedia)

Due to damaged hair, baldness and skin disorders caused by different factors, Sarah started learning about hair care from her brothers who were barbers. In 1904 at the World’s Fair at St. Louis, Sarah became a commission representative and started marketing hair care products for Annie Malone. Subsequent years later, Sarah started developing her own product line from her experience and knowledge of hair care.

Madam CJ Walker eventually became an independent hairdresser and seller of cosmetic creams as she went around teaching women on hair care. She and Charles Walker travelled around the US expanding their business to Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, NewYork with the headquarters of Madam C.J Walker Manufacturing Company established in Indianapolis. She later built a factory, hair and beauty salon and a laboratory. By 1917, her company had trained over 20,000 Black American women and even had sales agents for her company.

After her death, in the 1920s, Sarah’s company expanded outside the US to the Caribbean and South Americas due to active advertisement and brand awareness.

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