Our favorite time of the year is finally here!
It is time to celebrate and dedicate the entire month of February to black history. Follow Sheen Magazine along the way as we’ll share black history facts throughout the entire month. Every day, we will share little-known facts, celebrate those who played made their mark in history, and the historic moments and events.
Madam C.J. Walker
Madam C.J. Walker was born on December 23rd, 1867 in Delta, Louisiana. Her birth name was Sarah Breedlove. Her parents, Owen and Minerva were freed slaves. Sarah was their fifth child, and the first in her family to be free-born.
Sarah became an orphan at seven years old when Minerva passed away due to unknown causes. After her parents’ passing, Sarah went on to live with her sister and brother in law to Vicksburg, Missippi in 1877. There is no documentation that exists to verify Sarah’s employment during this time frame.
Sarah was frequently mistreated by her brother-in-law but she would soon go on to meet Moses McWilliams at just 14-years-old and was able to escape the harsh treatment. On June 6th, 1885, Sarah gave birth to her daughter, A’Leila. Unfortunately, two years later, Moses passed away.
The mother and daughter duo moved to St. Louis where she found work as a washerwoman, earning $1.50 a day! With this money, Sarah was able to send her daughter to the city’s public schools. Sarah also attended night school as much as she could.
While living in St. Louis, she met her second husband Charles J. Walker.
Sarah developed a scalp disorder during the 1890s, because of this she began to lose her hair, which sparked an idea for her to experiment with home remedies and store-bought hair care treatments in order to improve her condition.
Sarah became a commission agent when she was hired on by Annie Turnbo Malone and moved to Denver, Colorado.
Turning the idea into reality
Walker’s husband helped ads for the treatments made by Sarah and encouraged her to use a more recognized name, Madam C.J. Walker. In 1907, the couple traveled to promote the products and give demonstrations that included her own formula for pomade and the use of heated combs.
In 1908, Walker opened up a factory and beauty school in Pittsburgh! She transferred her business operations to Indianapolis and titled it the Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company which grew to become a highly successful company. There, the company manufactured cosmetics and trained sales beauticians called, “Walker Agents.”
On top of all the success, Walker organized clubs and conventions for these agents and held philanthropic and educational efforts.
Madam C.J. Walker and Charles divorced in 1913. She traveled to Latin America and the Caribbean to promote her business and recruit others to teach her methods.
While away, A’Leila helped facilitate the purchase of property for the company in Harlem, New York. Walker returned from her travels in 1916 and continued to operate her business in Harlem while the day-to-day operations of her factory happened in Indianapolis.
In 1918, Walker built an Italianate mansion called, Villa Lewaro. It was designed by African American architect, Vertner Tandy.
We know that Walker took part in the social and political culture of the Harlem Renaissance. She found philanthropies and educational scholarships, donated to the homes for the elderly, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the National Conference on Lynching to improve the lives of African Americans.
The passing of Madam C.J. Walker
Madam C.J. Walker passed away on May 25th, 1919 at the age of 51 due to hypertension. At the time of her death, she was the sole owner of her business, which was valued at more than $1 million!
Featured Image: Shutterstock
All information obtained on Biography