Madame C.J. Walker

Madame C.J. Walker driving automobile

Madame C.J. Walker (in the driver’s seat at  left) was an entrepreneur, philanthropist and social activist who became the first black woman millionaire in the United States. She made her fortune selling hair care products for women. She was born Sarah Breedlove to Louisiana sharecroppers in 1867. She was widowed by age 20 and went to work as a laundress in St. Louis, MO. After starting to lose her hair in 1905, she develped a product that helped with her condition and went on to create a whole system of hair treatment products specifically geared towards black women’s hair. She lived extravagantly, and her Manhattan townhouse would later become a meeting place for artists of the Harlem Renaissance. She also gave extravagantly to charities like the NAACP, black YMCA, and funded scholarships for women to the Tuskeegee Institute. She is ranked #85 of the 100 Most Influential Women of All Time: a Ranking Past and Present.

book cover of On Her Own Ground

One of the biographies of Madame C.J. Walker available is On her own ground : the life and times of Madam C.J. Walker by A’Lelia Bundles, New York: Scribner, 2001.

Another more recent biography is “Her Dream of Dreams: the Rise and Triumph of Madame C.J. Walker, by Beverly Lowry, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003.

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