As part of Face2Face Africa’s commitment to informing and connecting black people around the world, we have resolved to devote each day of the month of March to celebrate black women inventors and to highlight their inventions.
In the 1900s, millionaires were making their fortune through the monopoly of goods such as coal, lumber, and transportation. But this first African-American female millionaire in America, Madam C. J. Walker made her fortune on beauty products.
After her husband’s death, C.J. Walker, born Sarah Breedlove 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, Breedlove developed a shampoo and ointment with sulfur that helped stimulate the scalp and made it healthier for hair growth.
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With her new husband, Charles Joseph Walker, Breedlove 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.
Born on December 23, 1867, Madam C.J. Walker was also known for her philanthropy and activism.
She died of kidney failure at her New York estate at the age of 51.