On April 27th The National League of American Pen Women heard their Northern California president, Dorothy Atkins, speak on Sarah Breedlove, an entrepreneur and philanthropist. She is 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, Madame C.J.Walker. A fascinating talk about a life well lived. Dorothy Atkins brought hats to the luncheon left to her by her mother-in-law, who was a seamstress at I. Magnin and made all her own clothes.

Mary Lou & Audry Lynch
We were enjoying the company of members of the San Jose Women’s Club and trying on hats. Audry Lynch and I are busy looking over all the color at the table.


Madam C.J. Walker was born Sarah Breedlove on December 23, 1867, on a cotton plantation near Delta, Louisiana. Her parents, Owen and Minerva, were recently freed slaves, and Sarah, who was their fifth child, was the first in her family to be free-born.

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. While in St. Louis, Breedlove met her second husband Charles J. Walker, who worked in advertising and would later help promote her hair care business.

During the 1890s, Sarah Breedlove developed a scalp disorder that caused her to lose much of her hair, and she began to experiment with both home remedies and store-bought hair care treatments in an attempt to improve her condition.
hair grower scalp

In 1905, Breedlove was hired as a commission agent by Annie Turnbo Malone—a successful, black, hair care product entrepreneur—and she moved to Denver, Colorado. While there, Breedlove’s husband Charles helped her create advertisements for a hair care treatment for African Americans that she was perfecting. Her husband also encouraged her to use the more recognizable name “Madam C.J. Walker,” by which she was thereafter known.

[Biographical text and images of C.J. Walker obtained online and from the Wikipedia.]


…AND THEY WERE REWARDED. KHALIDA SARWARI of Silicon Valley Community Newspapers wrote this article that was published in the Los Gatos Community Paper, Around Town, on August 8, 2014. The Mercury News originally carried the article on August 6, 2014.

MLT_Audry 1

Longtime Saratoga residents Audry Lynch and Mary Lou Taylor thanks share a love of writing and of old Hollywood.

Last month Lynch, 81, and Taylor, 84, were honored at the Hollywood Festival of Books held in the Academy Room at the Roosevelt Hotel for their individual books, both of which shine a spotlight on the movie stars of yore. In The Rebel Figure in American Literature and Film, Lynch reveals an interconnection between movie star James Dean and novelist John Steinbeck; and Taylor’s The Fringes of Hollywood teleports readers back to another era, or as Taylor describes in her poem, “Glamour Redux,” “manicured lawns and silks and furs in Beverly Hills, Grauman’s Chinese sculpted in footprints of the stars, bright glow on a hill that spelled out ‘Hollywood’ in giant white letters.”

“Glamour Redux” is one of more than 70 poems in “Fringes,” almost all of them about Hollywood or her experience growing up in southwest L.A. and running into the likes of Elizabeth Taylor and Gary Cooper.

“I thought, I want to write about this,” Taylor said. “In the ’40s and ’50s the stars were pretty big. I went to school with them and ran into them in bathrooms. It’s fun to think back on it.”

Lynch said she, too, was swept up by the magic of Tinseltown. “We just succumbed to the glamour of Hollywood,” she said.

Both ladies and their families went down to Los Angeles for the award ceremony on July 26, where Lynch accepted an award for best book in the biography and autobiography category and Taylor’s collection of poems was declared the winner in the wild card category. Lynch described the ceremony as “a mini Oscar evening for writers.” Taylor fell ill and sent her husband and friend to accept the award on her behalf.

Lynch has had a 40-year obsession with Steinbeck, making him the focal point in two other books, titled Steinbeck Remembered and With Steinbeck in the Sea of Cortez. Her latest book looks at how the lives of Steinbeck, Dean and director Elia Kazan intersected on Kazan’s East of Eden, based on Steinbeck’s 1952 novel. The movie catapulted all three to fame.

The book also traces similarities between Steinbeck and Dean, the main ones being that both were college dropouts who hailed from small towns and conservative families. Dean and Steinbeck both disliked their hometowns and left at the age of 18, but were buried there–Dean in Marion, Ind., and Steinbeck in Salinas–upon their death.
In life, both men had difficult personas and complicated relationships and struggled with the notion that they had disappointed their fathers.

“Through it all, they were producing all these genius films and books,” Lynch said. “I thought it was amazing they were so alike.”‘

Lynch is working on a book about Mark Twain and his travels to Bermuda, where he is considered a rock star, she said. She is a member of the California Writers Club and the National League of American Pen Women. Lynch is a graduate of Harvard University, Boston University and the University of San Francisco, where she obtained a doctorate degree in psychology.

Before committing her life to writing, she served as a guidance counselor for 32 years and taught English at Mission College for 25 years. Lynch has lived in Saratoga since 1970.

Taylor is also working on publishing a new book. Hers will be another poetry collection titled Bringing Home the Moon, and will explore “constraint versus flight.”

She is a Montalvo Arts Center artist-in-residence and serves as a trustee for the Center for Literary Arts at San Jose State University. She graduated from UCLA and SJSU and taught English and speech at Monta Vista and Fremont High schools. Taylor has lived in Saratoga since 1967.