Madam C.J. Walker: America’s First Self-Made Female Millionaire

Madam C.J. Walker, the very first self-made female millionaire in America!

Madam Walker was born Sarah Breedlove in 1867 to former slaves, Owen and Minerva Anderson Breedlove. Her journey to success started with her working as a laborer in cotton fields alongside her sister before marrying Moses McWilliams. Unfortunately, McWilliams died, and Walker moved with her young daughter to St. Louis to be and work with her brothers in their barber shop.

By the 1890s, Walker developed a scalp issue, leading her to try almost every product on the market and homemade remedies. She eventually became a sales agent for the hair care products of Annie Malone, another Black female entrepreneur, and married Charles Joseph Walker where she gets her initials “C.J.” Not long after, Madam C.J. Walker founded her own company and began selling her own hair and scalp care products, namely Madam Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower. She sold her products door-to-door all across the country and did long sales and marketing campaigns.

By 1910, she had opened a manufacturing facility, started the Lelia College where Walker “hair culturists” trained to use her products, and had become even more active in her community by donating $1000 to help open a YMCA in Indianapolis for Black people. The list of her accomplishments goes on and includes hosting the Madam C. J. Walker Hair Culturists Union of America convention, donating to the NAACP’s anti-lynching movement, petitioning for legislation at the Capital, becoming a pioneer in entrepreneurship, and growing her business.

“There is no royal flower-strewn path to success,” she once commented. “And if there is, I have not found it for if I have accomplished anything in life it is because I have been willing to work hard.” – “Madam Walker Essay” from by A’Lelia Bundles