Innovating a Legacy
Mme C. J. Walker
(b.1867, d. 1919)
Madam Walker transformed herself from an uneducated laundress and farm laborer to America’s first self-made female millionaire. Her hair care company, after 100 years, is still thriving today.
Born in 1867, on the same plantation her parents had been enslaved before the Civil War, Sarah Breedlove’s early life was hard and fraught with personal challenges. By the 1890s, Breedlove suffered from hair loss and scalp disease; a common ailment of the time. She worked tirelessly to create her “secret” formula that would care for the scalp and regrow hair. In 1905, she married Charles Joseph Walker and changed her name to “Madam” C. J. Walker. With this new name, she founded a company and began selling Madam Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower. Walker achieved remarkable success with her company and was able to give back to her community; fighting for anti-lynching movements on a national scale, funding African American social projects in Harlem, and forming unions and new opportunities for businesswomen across the country.
The C. J. Walker Beauty Culture company, the daughter of Walker’s original business, has multiple hair care products. The company continues Walker’s legacy by creating quality products that maintain healthy, natural hair for everyone.
1. Anthony, Cara. “A Legacy Reborn, Madam C.J. Walker Hair Products Are Back.” Indianapolis Star, IndyStar, 30 Sept. 2016, www.indystar.com/story/life/2016/09/30/100-years-later-madam-c-j-walker-hair-products-back/90316380/.
2. Bundles, A’Lelia Perry. “About Madam C.J. Walker.” Madam C.J. Walker Beauty Culture, www.mcjwbeautyculture.com/about-madam-c-j-walker-beauty-culture/#.Wt6WQojwZPb.
3. Bundles, A'Lelia Perry. Madam Walker Theatre Center: an Indianapolis Treasure. Arcadia Publishing, 2012.
4. Bundles, A'Lelia Perry. On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker. Pocket Books, 2002.