History's Empowered Women: Madam C.J. Walker
Posted on 20 February 2018
"I want you to understand that your first duty is to humanity. I want others to look at us and see that we care not just about ourselves, but about others."
The first American woman to become a self-made millionaire, Madam C.J. Walker was born Sarah Breedlove in 1867. As a young woman in Louisiana, Sarah suffered from a disorder that caused her to lose much of her hair–a misfortunate that she changed into an opportunity. Her explorations of both store-bought and homeopathic remedies led to the creation of her own haircare product specifically made for the health of Black women's hair.
Sarah adopted the Madam C.J. Walker moniker as part the brand she launched with her advertiser husband, which rapidly grew from a single salve to an in-demand line of haircare products. To accommodate the success of the brand, Walker opened beauty schools, salons, and factories. At the heart of the brand was the highly influential 'Walker method,' a sales technique emphasizing the importance of positive customer experiences.
Walker remained the company's most visible advocate, frequently touring in the US and abroad to spread her health and beauty wisdom. She was also a devoted philanthropist, investing in both local communities and national campaigns: Walker single-handedly funded the construction of a YMCA in Indianapolis, and in 1917 she traveled to the White House as part of a delegation seeking to make lynching a federal crime. Her legacy is one of embracing every woman’s natural beauty and using personal success for the good of the whole.
Learn more about Madam C.J. Walker's legacy here.