Sarah Breedlove, better known as Madam C.J. Walker, was an American entrepreneur born on December 23, 1867. She is best known as the first documented female self-made millionaire in the United States of America. Walker’s business catered to African-American women as she developed cosmetics and hair care products tailored to their needs. In addition to entrepreneurship, Walker was an activist and a philanthropist. On the occasion of her birthday, her narrative merits celebration.
Sarah Breedlove, better known as Madam C.J. Walker, was born on December 23, 1867. She was an entrepreneur, activist, and philanthropist born near Delta, Louisiana, to Owen and Minerva Breedlove. Walker had five siblings and was born after the Emancipation Proclamation, making her the first of her siblings born into freedom. By age seven, Walker was an orphan, and she moved to Vicksburg, Mississippi, to live with her brother-in-law.
Walker’s career path began with marriage. She married her first husband, Moses McWilliams, in 1882, and they had a daughter, Lelia, before his death in 1887. In 1894, she married John Davis but left him in 1903. Walker married her third husband, Charles Joseph Walker, and became Madam C.J. Walker. Before she started her company, Walker suffered severe dandruff and other hair problems. In 1904, she became a commission agent working for Annie Malone, an entrepreneur that created African-American hair care products. In 1905, Walker began developing her hair product line while selling for Malone. She soon began selling her products door-to-door.
In 1908, she and her family relocated to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and they opened a beauty parlor to train hair culturists. In 1910, Walker relocated her business to Indianapolis and established Madam C.J. Walker’s Manufacturing Company headquarters. From 1911 to 1919, she employed several thousand women who became her sales agents. Walker had several rivals, but her range of products focused on turning brittle hair into soft, luxuriant hair. She had made over a million dollars and garnered popularity for their effectiveness.
As a successful female entrepreneur, Walker’s personal life was public. As earlier stated, she was married thrice and became Madame C.J. Walker died at her country home in Irvington-on-Hudson on May 25, 1919, at 51, of hypertension. Her daughter Lelia was his only heir. The television show “Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker” (2020) has preserved Walker’s legacy.
Walker begins working as a commission agent for Malone.
Walker develops her hair products.
Walker opens a beauty parlor in Pennsylvania.
Walker establishes the Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company in Indianapolis.
Walker dies at her country home in Irvington-on-Hudson on May 25.
Why We Love Madam C.J. Walker
She was hardworking
Walker didn’t come from wealth. She toiled diligently to succeed despite having a difficult background.
She was strong
Being a successful woman at the peak of the segregation era couldn’t have been easy for Walker. However, Walker held her own.
She was an activist
Walker was an activist and philanthropist. She often donated to African-American causes.
5 Surprising Facts
She barely had a formal education
Walker only had three months of formal education.
She worked as a laundress
Walker worked as a laundress before starting her business.
She was the wealthiest
Walker was the wealthiest African-American woman in America.
She was abused
Walker’s brother-in-law abused her.
She got married at 14
To escape the abuse from her brother-in-law, Walker got married at 14.
Madam C.J. Walker FAQs
What happened to Madam C.J. Walker’s business?
The company survived for decades and was eventually closed in 1981.
What disease did Madam C.J. Walker have?
Walker had hypertension.
Who created the hot comb?
Walker produced the hot comb.
Madam C.J. Walker’s birthday dates