Sarah Breedlove was born in Louisiana in 1867, to a family so poor that she was forced to work as a domestic servant as a child, following the death of both her parents. She married twice, her first husband died, her second was abusive and she abandoned him. In 1906 she met and married Charles Joseph Walker, a salesman. She began calling herself Madam C. J. Walker. Though they divorced in 1912 she continued to use the name. In the early twentieth century, she developed hair care products for her personal use, as well as for friends and family, using expertise provided by her brothers who worked as barbers in St. Louis.
In 1910, while still married, she started the Madam C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company, creating hair products and other toiletries for African-Americans. By 1919 she employed several thousand black women to market her products across the United States, especially in the south. They marketed her products door-to-door and in beauty parlors and barber shops. As her famed and influence grew, Sarah became active in philanthropy, civil rights, and women’s rights. Before she died in 1919 Sarah went from a dirt-poor orphan to America’s first self-made female millionaire. Her company continued to operate until 1981.
Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources: