~In the spirit of Black History Month, we want to share the stories of some of the inspirational women hustlers who came before us. We hope that theses posts spur the desire to further research these pioneers and others you may have always been curious about~
Madam CJ Walker (1867–1919)
Madam CJ Walker is best remembered as something like the messiah of black hair care. From the fortune amassed from her hair care company she became one of the wealthiest, most successful black and female entrepreneurs of the post-emancipation period.
The first to be born free in her family, she was born Sarah Breedlove on a cotton plantation in Louisiana in 1867. Orphaned young and faced with a subsequent abusive home life, Breedlove married the first of her three husbands and moved to St. Louis where she began her ambitious pursuits.
After nearly going bald due to a longstanding scalp condition, she decided to take matters into her own hands and experiment with different potions. Ultimately, the remedy that would cure her allegedly came to her in a dream, though the concoction itself had been used for centuries prior. Combining her entrepreneurial and technical skills, Madam CJ Walker was able to penetrate the growing black middle class market and move into a league of her own.
More impressive though than the fact that she became the first black woman to become a millionaire or that her business was designed for women by women, was her work as a philanthropist. Speaking on her wealth she said, “My objective in life is not simply to make money for myself or to spend it on myself in dressing or running around in an automobile, but to help others.” With her wealth she sponsored orphanages and retirement homes for former slaves. She also supported many educational institutions including The Tuskegee Institute, where she personally supported six students.
Thank you, Madam CJ Walker for your contributions to black culture and for being an example of black excellence for over a century.