Throughout American history, there have been many African-Americans who have helped to create the fairness and equality that we experience today. This report is about one such individual, Madam C.J. Walker. Madam C.J.
Walker was born Sarah Breedlove on December the 23rd in 1867 in Delta Louisiana. She was born the second youngest of six children to Owen and Minerva Anderson Breedlove. Madam C.J. Walker received little formal education in her younger years, but she was able to learn simple reading and writing from the pastor of a small church in Louisiana that her family attended. She summed up her early life in a quote ” I am a women who came from the cotton fields of the South. I was promoted to washtub and then cook in the kitchen” in her appearance at the July, 1912 National Negro Business League Convention. Unfortunately for Madam C.
J. Walker, by the time she was 7 both of her parents had passed away from Yellow Fever. Her life became much harder after that forcing her to find work in order to help support the household, but she didn’t let that stop her. She went on to marry her first husband, Moses McWilliams, with who she had a daughter with, but upon his death in the 1880’s, her and her daughter moved to St.
Louis Missouri. This is where she had an opportunity to improve her reading and writing skills thanks to the women of St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1905 after divorcing from her second husband, John Davis, she moved to Denver where she married her third husband, Charles Joseph Walker.
During this time is when she developed her personally crafted line of hair care products designed for African-American women and began selling her items door-to-door. When Madam Walker began her company, there were very few products on the market specifically for African-American women, so her products were quite unique and desirable. Some of the products that she became well-known for include Madam Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower, Temple Salve, Tetter Salve, Vegetable Shampoo and Glossine. When the Walker family moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1908, the popularity of her hair-care products led Madam Walker to create and open of the Lelia College of Beauty Culture in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to teach about African-American hair care and the use of her products. However in February of 1910 the family relocated once again to Indianapolis, Indiana. This is where the opening her hair care lines production factory, the Madam C.
J. Walker Manufacturing Company and hair salon would eventually take place. Once Madam C. J. Walker became a successful businesswoman, she hired a private tutor, Alice Kelly, to further improve her education. The headquarters of the Madam C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company remained in Indianapolis for more than seventy years.
Madam C.J. Walker moved to New York in 1916.Madam Walker passed away when she was 51 years old on May 25, 1919 of kidney failure and complications caused by high blood pressure at her Villa Lewaro Irvington-on-Hudson , New York estate.
She was laid to rest at the Woodlawn Cemetery in Bronx, New York. Since her passing, Madam C. J. Walker has been recognized by many as being the first self-made, self-educated African-American millionaire of the time. Madam Walker has been listed in past editions of the Guinness Book of World Records as the first self-made American woman millionaire because she didn’t inherit or marry into money, she worked hard and earned every penny for herself.