Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Madam C. J. Walker

Madam C. J. Walker
One of my all-time favorite biographical stories is of Madam C. J. Walker. Born Sarah Breedlove, in Delta, Louisiana, she was the first self-made woman millionaire in the US. She was also Black, which considering the time when she was born, in 1867, and the place, in the deep South, and what she went through to make those millions, big wow! 

Born to former slaves not long after the Civil War, she was a sharecropper's daughter, and orphaned at age seven. Without the benefit of nice inheritances and family connections, which even Bill Gates can thank for his start, she made her fortune from scratch. She worked in the cotton fields and moved up to doing laundry, she had a troubling beauty problem though, and that is a problem to which women of all times, ages and social status can relate. And thus the seeds of her success.

Sarah Breedlove's hair was falling out, and she set out to remedy that situation. Without indoor plumbing, people didn't wash their hair as much and were subject to scalp diseases, which was a common problem at the time and place. She came up with a salve and shampoo to improve the health of the hair and scalp. The products were good and when she decided to sell them, folks were definitely interested. After finding a way to deal with her own hair loss, she went on to develop a complete line of beauty products for Black women, which she turned into a wildly successful beauty supply company. 

She started the business from scratch, sold the products door-to-door, then mail order, started a beauty school to train others, and built a factory to manufacture the beauty products. In the process, Sarah Breedlove, now known as Madam C. J. Walker, became the first woman to become a self-made millionaire woman in the US. In doing so, she never forgot her roots or where she came from. 

Madam C. J. Walker spent her life not only making money, but doing all the good she could with what she made. Throughout her career, she worked to help others overcome what slavery had done to them and their families. She never stopped looking back or remembering where she came from. In her lifetime, she contributed to a number of Black schools, organizations, orphanages, and retirement homes. Madam C. J. Walker was not only a self-made woman, she shared her success with her people and she did everything she could to make the way a little bit better for those who came after. 

For more information on Madam C. J. Walker: See her official website, which is maintained by her granddaughter, A’Lelia Bundles.

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