Madam CJ Walker 101: The Inspiring Story of Haircare Empress
Zatrun Published at February 25, 2023

Madam CJ Walker, born Sarah Breedlove on December 23, 1867, was a pioneering entrepreneur who became known as the first black female millionaire in America. She made her fortune by creating homemade hair care products for black women.

As a talented businesswoman, Walker initially sold her products directly to black women. However, she soon began to employ “beauty culturists” to sell her wares, creating an empire in the process. Walker used her wealth to provide scholarships for women at Tuskegee Institute and donated to NAACP, Black YMCA, and other charitable organizations. In this article on, you can find out everything you need to know about Madam CJ Walker.

Who is Madam CJ Walker?

Sarah Breedlove was born on a cotton plantation near Delta, Louisiana. Her parents, Owen and Minerva, were once enslaved but were later freed. Sarah was their fifth child, but the first to be born free.

In 1874, when Sarah was just seven years old, her parents died in quick succession for unknown reasons. Sarah and her older sister, Louvinia, were sent to live with their brother-in-law. In 1877, the trio moved to Vicksburg, Mississippi, where Sarah worked as a cotton picker.

At the age of 14, Sarah married Moses McWilliams to escape the oppressive work environment and the mistreatment of her brother-in-law. On June 6, 1885, Sarah gave birth to a daughter, A’Lelia.

Two years later, Moses died. Sarah and A’Lelia moved to St. Louis, where Sarah earned $1.50 a day washing clothes, enough to send her daughter to public schools. She also attended school at night and met her second husband, Charles J. Walker, who later helped her introduce her hair care business.

How Did Madam CJ Walker Begin Her Career?

In the 1890s, Sarah suffered from a scalp ailment that caused her to lose most of her hair. She tried home remedies and store-bought hair care products to treat the condition.

Initially, Sarah learned hair care from her barber brothers in St. Louis. In 1905, successful hair care entrepreneur Annie Turnbo Malone hired her and moved her to Denver, Colorado. Malone did not realize that Sarah, who later became Madam CJ Walker, would become her biggest competitor. However, while working for Malone, Sarah learned new techniques that she used to develop her own product line.

One day, a dispute arose between Sarah and Malone because Malone accused Sarah of stealing her century-old formula of mixing sulphur and petroleum jelly. From that day on, the two parted ways.

In conclusion, Madam CJ Walker’s legacy is one of determination and success, as she transformed her passion for hair care into a thriving business that made her one of America’s wealthiest black women in the early 20th century.

Madam CJ Walker Company

Sarah married Charles Walker in 1906, and from then on, she was known as Madam CJ Walker. Charles helped her create advertisements for a hair care treatment for African Americans. Sarah also taught other black women how to style and care for their hair by selling her products door to door.

In 1908, the Walkers moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where they opened a beauty salon and established Lelia College to train “hair culturists.” As an advocate for black women’s economic independence, Sarah also launched the “Walker System” education program to train a network of national licensed sales agents who earned healthy commissions.

Divorce, Harlem, and Death

Sarah’s daughter, A’Lelia, joined the team in 1910. When Walker established a new base in Indianapolis, A’Lelia managed daily operations in Pittsburgh. However, in 1913, Sarah and Charles divorced. Sarah travelled to Latin America and the Caribbean to promote her business and hired others to teach her hair care methods. That same year, A’Lelia convinced her mother to open an office and beauty salon in the rapidly growing Harlem neighbourhood of New York City. This later became the centre of African American culture.

In 1916, after returning from her travels, Walker moved to a new townhouse in Harlem. She quickly became absorbed in the social and political culture of the Harlem Renaissance and helped organizations like the NAACP and National Conference on Lynching to improve the lives of African Americans.

Madam CJ Walker passed away on May 25, 1919, at the age of 51, due to kidney failure and hypertension. At the time of her death, she was believed to have a fortune between half a million and one million dollars. She was the richest African American woman in the United States at the time of her passing. After her death, her daughter A’Lelia became the president of the Madam CJ Walker Company.

Follow the developments in the crypto world. What would you like us to inform you about?