Black Innovators, Inventors and Leaders: Madam CJ Walker

Bonjour Tout le Mode!!!

Aujourd’hui =D I will share with you an activist, entrepreneur, philanthropist and mother who built an empire of making haircare products while educating & encouraging black women to run their own business. With great honour, I introduce to you: Madam C.J. Walker

ImageBorn Sarah Breedlove, in 1867, to parents who were slaves along with her five older siblings living in Delta, Louisiana. Sarah was the youngest and the only child born free. After her parents died she travelled to various cities to live with relatives; however it wasn’t until 20 year old Sarah’s husband died, that she and her daughter, Leila McWilliams aka A’Leila Walker, moved to live with her brothers in St. Louis, Missouri. All four of them were barbers in a local barbershop. Sarah had a job a laundrywoman, she saved her money to educate her daughter and she was active with the local chapter of the National Association of Coloured Women (NACW).  

The start of her legacy came from her personal need for a hair product that would aid her scalp ailment that was causing some her hair to fall out. Embarrassed by the situation she sought out home-made hair products to remedy the issue made by another black woman entrepreneur, Annie Malone. Impressed with the results Sarah and Leila packed up and relocated to Denver, CO were she became a sales agent for Annie Malone. There is where Sarah Breedlove McWilliams remarried to an advertising salesman named, Charles Joseph Walker, along with her new marriage came her new name, Madam C.J. Walker.

In the early 1900s, after her marriage, Madam C.J. Walker took her earnings and started her business selling hair growth products, Madam Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower, going door to door selling and doing demonstrations, relentlessly, they had beauty ads and the key sales pitch. Success was destined, Madam CJ knew it. In 1908, Walker and her husband moved  to Pittsburg, PA where she opened up a college to train her aspiring “hair culturists”. Walker named the school after her daughter, Lelia College, who was still in Denver. As the product was growing in demand some was Walker’s business, at one point she had employed  about 3,000 people! { imagine a black woman during these times with that much business power } Walker had designed a system, the Walker System, that not just supplied hair & beauty products but also provided licensed agents by educating them and offering employment & personal growth opportunities. By 1910, Walker took her company to Indianapolis where she built headquarters and a factory, Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company, to produce her own products, having absolute control over the manufacturing developments and cost.

This is how she accomplished two amazing feats; she became the United States first woman who was a self-made millionaire and top of that, she was the first black woman at that!!!

Madam Walker was selfless, she encouraged and supported woman to pave their way to their destined success. One employee did just that, Marjorie Joyner

, Image invented the Permanent Hair Weaving Machine, this device allowed curly or straight hairstyles to last a longtime. It was popular with both black and white woman. Although Joyner invented this revolutionary hairstyling machine, it was intellectual property of the Walker empire. Joyner was a prized asset to the company and continued to grow with the Walker company.

Madam CJ Walker was a firm believer in perseverance. Hard work, dedication and faith brought about the success Walker had. She received many awards for her accomplishments after her passing in 1919.   

“I am a woman who came from the cotton fields of the South. From there I was promoted to the washtub. From there I was promoted to the cook kitchen. And from there I promoted myself into the business of manufacturing hair goods and preparations. I have built my own factory on my own ground” – Madame Walker  

Inspiration simply put! Checkout the official website:

Au Revoir!!!



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