SARAH BREEDLOVE WALKER Biography - Bussiness people and enterpreneurs


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Madam C.J. Walker (December 23, 1867 - May 25, 1919) was an American                   
businesswoman, hair care entrepreneur, tycoon and philanthropist.                       
Her fortune was made by developing and marketing a hugely successful line of           
beauty and hair products for black women. The Guinness Book of Records cites           
Walker as the first female, black or white, self-accomplished millionaire.             
She was born Sarah Breedlove in Delta, Louisiana, the first member of her family       
born free. Her parents were slaves. She had five siblings; one sister and four         
brothers. She was raised on farms there and in Mississippi. She picked cotton on       
a plantation as a child, and became an orphan at the age seven.                         
At age 14, she married a man named Moses McWilliams and was widowed at age 20.         
She then moved to St. Louis to join her brothers. Sarah worked as a laundress           
for as little as a dollar and a half a day, but she was able to save enough to         
educate her daughter. While living in St. Louis, she joined the St. Paul's             
African Methodist Episcopal Church, which helped develop her speaking,                 
interpersonal and organizational skills.                                               
She became interested in a hair tonic while trying to treat a stress condition         
caused by working with chemicals as a laundress that left her temporarily bald.         
In 1905, Sarah moved to Denver, Colorado, working as a hair tonic sales agent           
for Annie Malone, another black woman entrepreneur.                                     
She married her second husband, Charles Joseph Walker, a St. Louis newspaperman,       
changed her name to "Madam C.J. Walker," and founded the Madam C.J. Walker             
Manufacturing Company to sell hair care products and cosmetics.                         
In 1910, Madam Walker moved her growing manufacturing operations to a new               
industrial complex in Indianapolis, and by 1917, it was the largest business in         
the United States owned by a black person.                                             
Madam C.J. Walker said of herself:                                                     
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.                           
There is no royal, flower-strewn path to success. And if there is, I have not           
found it for if I have accomplished anything in life, it is because I have been         
willing to work hard.                                                                   
Walker saw her personal wealth as not an end in itself, but a means to help             
promote and expand economic opportunities for others, especially black people.         
She took great pride in the profitable employment—and alternative to domestic         
labor—that her company afforded many thousands of black women who worked as           
commissioned agents for Walker's company. Her agents could earn from $5 to $15 a       
day, in an era when unskilled white laborers were making about $11 a week.             
One of her employees, Marjorie Joyner, started under her influence and went on         
to lead the next generation of African American beauty entrepreneurs. Walker was       
also known for her philanthropy, leaving two-thirds of her estate to educational       
institutions and charities including the NAACP, the Tuskegee Institute and             
Bethune-Cookman College. In 1919, her $5,000 pledge to the NAACP's anti-lynching       
campaign was the largest gift the organization had ever received. She died soon         
after on May 25, 1919, at age 51, at her estate, Villa Lewaro, due to kidney           
failure and other complications resulting from hypertension. She was buried at         
Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.                                                         
Walker's daughter, A'Lelia Walker, carried on this tradition, opening her mother's     
home and her own to writers and artists of the emergent Harlem Renaissance and         
promoting important members of that movement. She converted a section of her           
Harlem townhouse at 108-110 West 136th Street into The Dark Tower, a salon and         
tearoom, where Harlem and Greenwich Village artists, writers and musicians             
gathered. Poet Langston Hughes called her "The joy goddess of Harlem's 1920s" in       
his autobiography, The Big Sea, because of the lavish parties she hosted in             
Harlem and Irvington.                                                                   
Walker had a mansion called "Villa Lewaro" built in the wealthy New York suburb         
of Irvington on Hudson, New York, near the estates of John D. Rockefeller and           
Jay Gould, and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on furnishings. The               
Italianate villa was designed by architect Vertner Tandy, the first registered         
black architect in the state of New York, in 1915. She also owned townhouses in         
Indianapolis and New York.