She Did, You Can
Please allow us to introduce you to the woman who would not be discouraged
Sara Breedlove ~ Madame C.J. Walker
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"Born Sarah Breedlove on December 23, 1867
on a Delta, Louisiana plantation, this daughter
of former slaves transformed herself from an
uneducated farm laborer and laundress into
one of the twentieth century's most successful,
self-made women entrepreneurs.
She was orphaned at age seven survived with her older sister by working in the cotton fields of Delta and
Vicksburg, Mississippi.   She received no formal education.  She married at age fourteen(to a man named
Moses McWilliams) and after gave birth to her daughter.   

At twenty she became a widow, at which point she moved to St. Louis.
Sarah worked as a laundress for as little as a dollar and a half a day, but she was able to save enough to
educate her daughter.

During the 1890s, Sarah began to suffer from a scalp ailment that caused her to lose some of her hair.
Embarrassed by her appearance, she experimented with a variety of home-made remedies and products made
by another black woman entrepreneur, Annie Malone. In 1905, Sarah became a sales agent for Malone and
moved to Denver, where she married Charles Joseph Walker.

Changing her name to Madame CJ Walker, she founded her own business and began selling Madam Walker's
Wonderful Hair Grower, a scalp conditioning and healing formula. To promote her products, she embarked on
an exhausting sales drive throughout the South and Southeast selling her products door to door, giving
demonstrations, and working on sales and marketing strategies.
In 1908, she opened a college in Pittsburgh to train her "hair culturists."
"I got my start by
giving myself a start."
Madame CJ Walker's House (Villa Lewaro).
Irvington-on-the-Hudson, New York, ca. 1987.

This home was designed in 1918 by an African American
architect, Vertner Woodson Tandy, for an African American
cosmetics magnate, Madame CJ Walker, on the Hudson River
north of New York City. When Madame CJ Walker was asked why
she built such a palatial home, she replied that she had not built it
for herself but so that blacks could see what could be
accomplished with hard work and determination.

Villa Lewaro, the name of the estate, has significance for both its
architect and original owner. Tandy was New York's first licensed
black architect. This building was known as his best work.

No one knows Madame CJ Walker's exact
worth, but she was considered to be the
nation's first American woman millionaire.

Eventually, her products formed the
basis of a thriving national corporation
employing at one point over 3,000
people. Her Walker System, which
included a broad offering of cosmetics,
licensed Walker Agents, and Walker
Schools offered meaningful
employment and personal growth to
thousands of Black women. Madame
Walker’s aggressive marketing
strategy combined with relentless
ambition led her to be labeled as the
first known American woman to
become a self-made millionaire.
Having amassed a fortune in fifteen
years, this pioneering businesswoman
died at the age of 52. Her prescription
for success was perseverance, hard
work, faith in herself and in God,
"honest business dealings" and of
course, quality products.

Tenacity and perseverance, faith in
herself and in God, quality products
and "honest business dealings" were
the elements and strategies she
prescribed for aspiring entrepreneurs
who requested the secret to her
rags-to-riches ascent.
"There is no royal flower-strewn path to success,"
she once observed. "And if there is, I have not found it -
for if I have accomplished anything in life it is because
I have been willing to work hard."

She bacame a philanthropist and role model, contributing to African American
orphanages, old-age homes, schools, colleges, and a new civil rights
organization, the NAACP.    She became one of the best-known women in
America. Upon her death in 1919, her business went to her daughter.

Though she sold popular products, created job
opportunities for thousands, and generously shared
her wealth, Walker's greatest accomplishment may
have been her inspirational story, which made her
a lasting role model for future generations.
"I am a woman who came from the cotton fields of the South.
From there, I was promoted to the washtub.
From there, I was promoted to the cook kitchen. And from there,
I promoted myself into the business of manufacturing hair goods
and preparations....I have built my own factory on my own ground."

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"There is no royal
flower-strewn path to

"...if I have
accomplished anything
in life it is because
I have been willing to
work hard."
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