Madam C.J. Walker was an African American entrepreneur, philanthropist, and political and social activist. She is recorded as the first female self-made millionaire in America in the Guinness Book of World Records.
She was born Sarah Breedlove in December 23, 1867 in Delta, Louisiana. Her parents died when she was seven. She went to live with her sister and brother in law in Mississippi. She had three months of school and then went to work as a domestic servant. She married Moses McWilliams at age 14 and had one daughter, Leila. He died in 1887.
She moved to St Louis, Mo in 1888. She had dandruff and scalp problems. She learned about hair care from her brothers and went to work selling products for Annie Malone.
Walker made her fortune by developing and marketing a line of cosmetics and hair care products for black women through the business she founded, Madam C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company.
Walker started her mail order business in Denver around 1906, but later closing it in 1907. In 1908 she moved the business to Pittsburgh, and by 1910 established a base in Indianapolis. She also traveled to Central America and the Caribbean to sell her products. In 1916, she moved her personal life to New York City. She had trained more than 20,000 women by 1917, which was the first year of her annual conference held in Philadelphia.
She became known also for her philanthropy and activism. She made financial donations to numerous organizations such as the NAACP, and became a patron of the arts.
She died at age 51 in 1919 in New York City.