Madam C.J. Walker (December 23, 1867 - May 25, 1919) was an
American businesswoman, hair care entrepreneur, tycoon and
philanthropist. Her fortune was made by developing and marketing a
hugely successful line of beauty and hair products for black women.
The Guinness Book of Records cites Walker as the first female,
black or white, self-accomplished millionaire. She was born Sarah
Breedlove in Delta, Louisiana, the first member of her family born
free. Her parents were slaves. She had five siblings; one sister
and four brothers.
She was raised on farms there and in Mississippi. She picked
cotton on a plantation as a child, and became an orphan at the age
seven. She became interested in a hair tonic while trying to treat
a stress condition caused by working with chemicals as a laundress
that left her temporarily bald. In 1905, Sarah moved to Denver,
Colorado, working as a hair tonic sales agent for Annie Malone,
another black woman entrepreneur. She married her third husband,
Charles Joseph Walker, a St. Louis newspaperman, changed her name
to "Madam C.J. Walker," and founded the Madam C.J. Walker
Manufacturing Company to sell hair care products and cosmetics. In
1910, Madam Walker moved her growing manufacturing operations to a
new industrial complex in Indianapolis, and by 1917, it was the
largest business in the United States owned by a black person.