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.
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.
FASCINATING FACTS ABOUT C.J.WALKER
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.
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.]