Sarah Breedlove, AKA Madame C.J. Walker
Born in 1867, Sarah Breedlove, later knows as Madame C.J. Walker, developed a business that made her the first female American millionaire. She became not only the wealthiest American woman in the country, but the world’s most successful female entrepreneur of her time.
Her parents and older siblings were slaves, but she was the first child born free after the Emancipation Proclamation. She was orphaned at the age of seven, and found work as a domestic, while living with her sister.
Sarah married Charles Joseph Walker in 1906, but they divorced six years later. She kept the last name, becoming Madame C.J.Walker.
She started selling cosmetic creams as well, going door to door, teaching Black women to groom and style their hair. One might say she was the first Avon Lady! Her business grew through her expert marketing techniques, and she built a beauty school to train sales agents. By 1917, she had trained nearly 20,000 women.
Madame C.J. Walker was known for her philanthropy and activism, making donations to numerous organizations, and she became a patron of the arts. Her lavish estate in Irvington-on-Hudson New York became a social gathering place for the African American community.
This is only part of her story. Her philanthropy is legendary.