Madam C.J. Walker
Madam C.J. Walker
African-American woman who started a successful beauty company and encouraged US citizens to see black women as beautiful
Image: Scurbrook Studio, public domain
Delta, Louisiana, USA
Sarah Breedlove, better known as Madam C.J. Walker, is generally regarded as the first female self-made millionaire in the United States. She was an entrepreneur who saw a need and capitalized on it. There were few beauty products for black women. Walker's hair products, then, reinforced the femininity and beauty of black women, while attempting to ease real problems like dry scalp. In 1905, she first released "Madam Walker's Wonderful Hair Grower." Although critics, such as Booker T. Washington, worried that her product would lead to the internalization by black women of white concepts of beauty, Walker marketed her hair solution as helping hair grow—not straightening it. A successful marketer, Walker put the Madam in front of her name to give off a European feel. Walker also placed her image on her growing line of products, an excellent marketing move towards immediate brand recognition. She went door to door selling her products and eventually hired agents to help sell her growing product line. She organized the agents into clubs and gave them incentives to promote her values. Walker preached hygiene along with beauty and aided racial advance. She was a generous philanthropist who gave to civil rights organizations, social reform groups, and scholarships for young women.
Colman, Penny. Madam C.J. Walker: Building a Business Empire. (Millbrook Press,1994).
Due, Tananarive. The Black Rose: the Dramatic Story of Madam C.J. Walker, America's First Black Female Millionaire. (Ballantine Books, 2007)>