Regarded as the first African-American woman to become a self-made millionaire, Madam C. J. Walker made her fortune on beauty products in the early 1900s, an era where millionaires were making their fortune through the monopoly of goods such as coal, lumber, and transportation.
Walker, originally named Sarah Breedlove, was born to enslaved parents on December 23, 1867. At the age of seven, she became orphaned; she married at 14 and in 1906, began her million-dollar hair enterprise.
After her husband’s death, Walker moved to St. Louis with her daughter, where she began to work as a laundress. At the time, black women had a lot of issues with their hair, including dandruff and other scalp diseases. After experimenting with products in her home and other items in the market, Walker developed a shampoo and ointment with sulfur that helped stimulate the scalp and made it healthier for hair growth.
With her new husband, Charles Joseph Walker, she developed and marketed a line of beauty and hair products for black women through Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company, the successful business she founded. Madam C.J. Walker’s hair products were distributed and sold door to door throughout the United States.
In 1908, the couple settled in Pittsburgh and opened Lelia College, an institute ran by her daughter A’Lelia Walker, where they trained individuals in hair care and entrepreneurship.
Walker, who was widely known for her philanthropy and activism, died of kidney failure at her New York estate on May 25, 1919, at the age of 51.
To celebrate her legacy, Face2Face Africa shares with you 10 of her powerful quotes: