Madame CJ Walker



Born Sarah Breedlove; December 23, 1867-May 25, 1919.


The daughter of Owen and Minerva, who were recently freed slaves at the time of her birth. Minerva Breedlove died in 1874 and Owen passed away the following year, both due to unknown causes. Sarah became an orphan at the young age of 7.  Sarah lived with her sister, Louvinia, and her brother-in-law. The three moved to Vicksburg, Mississippi, in 1877, where Sarah picked cotton and was endured household duties. At 14, Sarah escaped her oppressive working environment and the frequent mistreatment at the hands of her brother-in-law. Sarah married a man named Moses McWilliams. On June 6, 1885, Sarah gave birth to a daughter, A'Lelia. When Moses died two years later, Sarah and A'Lelia moved to St. Louis, where Sarah's brothers had established themselves as barbers. There, Sarah found work as a washerwoman, earning $1.50 a day, enough to send her daughter to the city's public schools. She also attended public night school whenever she could.


After suffering from a scalp ailment that resulted in her own hair loss, she invented a line of African-American hair care products in 1905. Madame Walker promoted her products by traveling around the country giving lecture-demonstrations and eventually established Madame C.J. Walker Laboratories to manufacture cosmetics and train sales beauticians. Her savvy business acumen led her to be recognized as the first American American, self-made millionaire. Well known for her philanthropic endeavors, including donating the largest amount of money by an African-American toward the construction of an Indianapolis YMCA in 1913. 


" Don't sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up & make them"

-Madame CJ Walker