Women's History Month: Madam C.J. Walker

Madam C.J. Walker was one of the first American women to become a self-made millionaire. She was an inventor, entrepreneur, philanthropist, as well as a political and social activist. 

Her life was far from easy, at the tender age of seven-years-old, Ms. Walker, then Sarah Breedlove, lost both of her parents, making her an orphan and forcing her to move in with an elder sister and brother-in-law. For seven years she endured the abuse and cruelty of her brother-in-law, until age fourteen when she married her first husband to escape her relative’s abuse.  Four years later, at just twenty-years-old, Ms. Walker became a widow and a single mother to her two-year-old child.

She worked as a washerwoman to earn $1.50 a day to provide the proper education for her daughter as well as keep a roof over their head. After suffering from a serious scalp ailment caused by unhygienic conditions which made her lose her hair, Ms. Walker began mixing different cleaning products from her job to find a cure. To her amazement, a particular combination worked and her hair began to grow back.

Despite the misfortunes Ms. Walker faced up to this point in her life, she confidentially began her business. She traveled throughout the southern portion of the country, sold her products door to door, demonstrated her scalp treatments in churches and lodges, and created sales and marketing strategies to ensure her company’s lasted success.

Her confidence, resilience, and great business strategy helped create the millionaire revolutionary that is a household name today. But her legacy didn’t end with her business model, she used her success to help other African-Americans.  She founded scholarships for black students, donated money to different African-American institutions, lobbied politicians for civil rights, and wanted African-American women to get ahead and have careers where they can make a decent living.

Madam C.J. Walker was an orphan by seven, abused so bad that she fled by fourteen, and widowed by twenty-years-old, then, before the age of 51 years old, Ms. Walker was the first women millionaire. She is the epitome of what WomenRising aims to do each and every day, “helping women and families from crisis to self-sufficiency.”

Since the 1960s, when the Jersey City Job Corp was embarked on by the YWCA, WomenRising has offered a full-service resource and employment center to assist Hudson County residents with job search, workplace readiness, and industry-specific training programs. Our Community and Economic Program aims to help people in Hudson County obtain the self-sufficiency necessary to live a healthy, happy, and wholesome life.

“With Madam C.J. Walker as an inspiration, I am sure it is possible!”