February marks the celebration of Black History month. As a sorority who believe in “Excellence Through Unity”, it is only fitting that we take the time to present some of the notable women in African-American History.
During the month of February we will present a short biography on famous, inspiring, and world-changing African-American women throughout history.
Lets take a look at the first female self-made millionaire in America – Madam C.J. Walker
Sarah Breedlove – known as Madam C.J.Walker, was an American entrepreneur and philanthropist, regarded as the first female self-made millionaire in America. She made her fortune by developing and marketing a successful line of beauty and hair products for black women under the company she founded, Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company.
Like many women of her era, Sarah experienced hair loss. Because most Americans lacked indoor plumbing, central heating and electricity, they bathed and washed their hair infrequently. The result was scalp disease. Sarah experimented with home remedies and products already on the market until she finally developed her own shampoo and an ointment that contained sulfur to make her scalp healthier for hair growth.
Sarah, now known as Madam C. J. Walker, was selling her products throughout the United States. While her daughter Lelia (later known as A’Lelia Walker) ran a mail order business from Denver, Madam Walker and her husband traveled throughout the southern and eastern states. They settled in Pittsburgh in 1908 and opened Lelia College to train “hair culturists.” In 1910 Walker moved to Indianapolis, Indiana where she established her headquarters and built a factory.
She began to teach and train other black women to help them build their own businesses. She also gave other lectures on political, economic and social issues at conventions sponsored by powerful black institutions. After the East St. Louis Race Riot, she joined leaders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in their efforts to support legislation to make lynching a federal crime. In 1918 at the biennial convention of the National Association Of Colored Woman (NACW) she was acknowledged for making the largest contribution to save the Anacostia (Washington, DC) house of abolitionist Frederick Douglass. She continued to give money throughout her career the NAACP, the YMCA, and to black schools, organizations, people, orphanages, and retirement homes.
In 1917, she moved to her Irvington-on-Hudson, New York estate, Villa Lewaro, which had been designed by Vertner Tandy, the first licensed black architect in New York State and a founding member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. The house cost $250,000 to build. Madam C.J. Walker died at Villa Lewaro on Sunday, May 25, 1919 from complications of hypertension. She was 51. At her death she was considered to be the wealthiest African-American woman in America and known to be the first self-made female American millionaire. Her daughter, A’Lelia Walker, became the president of the Madam C.J Walker Manufacturing Company.
Madam Walker was inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago in 1992, the National Women’s Hall of Fame, in Seneca Falls, New York, the National Cosmetology Hall of Fame and the National Direct Sales Hall of Fame. On January 28, 1998, the USPS, as part of its Black Heritage Series, issued the Madam C.J. Walker Commemorative stamp. On March 16, 2010, Congressman Charles Rangel introduced HJ81, a Congressional House Joint Resolution, honoring Madam C. J. Walker. In December 2010, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed a bill designating the block of 136th Street between Malcolm X Boulevard (Lenox Avenue) and Seventh Avenue as Madam Walker and A’Lelia Walker Place.
*Insert taken from Wikepedia