Madam C.J. Walker – First Female Self-Made Millionaire

Updated on December 11, 2017
suziecat7 profile image

Suzanne believes women throughout history have made a difference. Her goal is to discover and celebrate women's contributions to history.

Source

Background – Madam C.J. Walker was born on December 23, 1867 as Sarah Breedlove in Delta, Mississippi. Her parents had been slaves until the end of the American Civil War. She was the youngest of six children and the only one born into freedom. Still she worked beside them in the cotton fields as a young child. In 1872, her mother died possibly of cholera and her father followed soon after. Sarah was only seven years old. She moved in with her older sister and her husband. By the time she was fourteen years old, Sarah married Moses McWilliams some say to escape her abusive brother-in-law. Three years later she gave birth to a daughter who she named Leila. Sadly, her husband died a few years later and she moved to St. Louis, Missouri to join her brothers who were barbers there. She managed to earn a little more than a dollar a day as a washer woman yet she saved enough money to enroll her daughter in the public schools giving her a chance at a better life.


Opportunity – While in St. Louis, Madam Walker became friendly with some women at her church. They gave her a new perspective on life and she saw possibility where before she saw none. In 1905, after another failed marriage, she started working in sales for Annie Malone, a hair care entrepreneur. Madam Walker herself had experimented with Malone's products in the past because of a scalp condition that caused her to lose much of her own hair. She relocated to Denver, Colorado and soon married her third husband, Charles Joseph Walker who had followed her from St. Louis. It was then she changed her name to Madam C.J. Walker and, taking her knowledge of hair care to a new level, developed her own independent business. Her husband helped her with marketing and advertising and together they began to travel in mostly the southern United States promoting her products and launching a successful mail order business.

Source

Businesswoman – Madam Walker worked tirelessly. Her hair care products were intended specifically for African-American women and it was there she kept her focus. She set up demonstrations in churches and knocked on doors. Eventually she realized the need to expand her sales force. It ended up being her greatest asset. She recruited black women and trained them to become Walker Agents (http://www.aleliabundles.com/2013/02/05/madam-walker-and-20000-agents/). She organized them into state and local chapters making sure they were well educated in the proper applications of her hair products. With her eye always on expansion, she created a Special Correspondence Course of Beauty Culture in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her program was threefold. It taught women not only about her beauty products and how to use them but also personal presentation and finally sales.

In 1917, Madam Walker held a convention in Philadelphia for the Madam Walker Beauty Culturists (https://www.mcjwbeautyculture.com/). It was the first of many. There she handed out prizes to those agents who had the best sales and recruitment. She also rewarded those who gave most in the way of charity in their communities. Social and political issues were always close to her heart.

She had established the home base for her business in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1910 where she purchased a home and added a laboratory, beauty salon and factory. Business was booming. A little over a year after moving to Indianapolis, Madam Walker applied to the Indiana Secretary of State to become incorporated. Her petition was approved and the Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company of Indiana Incorporated came to be. She was the sole proprietor and owned all the stock.

Source

Philanthropy- Madam Walker never forgot where she came from and was as dedicated to improving the lives of others as she was in her business endeavors particularly that of African-Americans. In a conversation with Booker T. Washington in 1912 she said, “ I am in the business world, not for myself alone, but to do all the good I can for the uplift of my race.” She was both a political activist and a major contributor to several organizations including the NAACP and the YMCA.

Madam Walker was diagnosed with hypertension in 1917 shortly after she purchased a home in New York to be closer to her daughter. Though she was given medical advice to slow down, she continued to travel and keep speaking engagements. Even when her health problems finally slowed her down, she was part of a Harlem delegation that went to Washington DC to plea for the rights of returning black veterans who had volunteered in the First World War.

She left most of her estate to charity when she died on May 25, 1919 at the age of 51. Her legacy left a trail of educational scholarships, political activism and much needed donations to organizations advancing the cause of African-Americans. Madam C.J. Walker's rags to riches efforts to achieve the American Dream served not only as an inspiration to women then but to all women of all races ever since.

© 2017 suziecat7

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • suziecat7 profile imageAUTHOR

      suziecat7 

      7 months ago from Asheville, NC

      Thanks, WillStarr :))

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 

      7 months ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      What a great story and also a great philosophy! Thank you, Suziecat7!

    • suziecat7 profile imageAUTHOR

      suziecat7 

      7 months ago from Asheville, NC

      Hi Peggy - She is quite an inspiration. Thanks for reading.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      7 months ago from Houston, Texas

      What a terrific story of determination to overcome odds and become a huge success. So nice to hear that she was so philanthropic. She certainly left a great legacy to inspire others. Thanks for writing about Madam C.J. Walker.

    • suziecat7 profile imageAUTHOR

      suziecat7 

      7 months ago from Asheville, NC

      Thanks for reading, Mary. She was an extremely determined woman for sure.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      7 months ago from Brazil

      How wonderful. I had never heard of her before. Many women would have faltered with her scalp condition but that was the turning point for her. Such a fantastic story of a strong-willed businesswoman.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://owlcation.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)