The daughter of former slaves, Walker became the first female millionaire in the United States by developing and marketing hair-care products for African American women.
Madam C. J. Walker was born Sarah Breedlove. She was orphaned when she was ten years old and widowed with a young daughter when she was only twenty years old. In 1889, she moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where she often earned only $1.50 per week as a washerwoman.
A 1920 advertisement for Madam C. J. Walker’s preparations, including cold cream and hair and complexion products.
Shortly thereafter, Walker developed her own line of hair-care products for African American women. She claimed that her “secret formula” came to her in a dream. Others have speculated that the ingredients were based on the Poro products. She adopted the title of “Madam” and traveled extensively selling products and training women in the “Walker Method” of hair care.
In 1910, Walker relocated her company from Pittsburgh to Indianapolis, building offices and a manufacturing plant. The Madam C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company provided work for approximately three thousand African American women. An additional twenty thousand agents sold Walker products throughout the United States, the Caribbean, and Central America. Her financial success allowed her to contribute generously to
Seneca Falls Convention
Women in business