Who Knew!?! Did you ever wonder who the first Self-Made Woman Millionaire was? Well, we did. Our research led us to Sarah Breedlove, aka Madam C.J. Walker. It is indeed amazing that she amassed one million dollars. But it is even more amazing that she was able to accomplish this given when she was born and her background.
Sarah Breedlove was born in 1867 on a Cotton plantation in Louisiana. She was one of six children and the first child in her family to be born into freedom. Her parents both died when she was a child; and by the age of ten she worked as a household servant. She was married at the age of 14, had her only child at the age of 18, and was widowed at the age of 20.
Sarah didn’t let this start to life affect her future plans. She was determined to provide her daughter with a formal education. She earned money any way she could, from being a laundress to singing. Eventually she started selling beauty products by traveling door to door. Later she developed her own line of hair-care products and became known as Madam C.J. Walker.
As her business grew, she moved to several different cities in the U.S. and eventually established a headquarters in Indianapolis. Many of her key management positions were women. At one point employed nearly 20,000 women. She organized conventions for women selling her products to recognize their success, but also to promote philanthropic educational efforts for African-Americans. In addition to training her employees to sell her products, Walker was instrumental in teaching African-American women how to budget, build their own business and become financially independent.
Walker eventually moved to Harlem, New York and ran her Indianapolis plant from there. She became involved in the community and in politics. Keep in mind that Walker likely wasn’t even allowed to vote at that time. Even so, she funded many philanthropic causes, including scholarships, funding for the elderly and the NAACP. Most notably, she was the largest donor toward the building of the YMCA in Indianapolis.
Walker did all of this before the age of 51, when she passed away in 1919. She remained the sole owner of her business, which was valued at more than $1 million. Keeping true to her philanthropic behavior throughout her life, Walker left just one-third of her estate to her daughter and the rest to various charities.
Imagine what life would have been like to be an orphaned African American girl living in the South in the 1870s. Can you imagine someone in this situation not only being successful, but to also to be the first self-made millionaire? As Madam C. J. Walker said, “ I had to make my own living and my own opportunity. But I made it! Don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them.” What have you done today?
“I am not merely satisfied in making money for myself, for I am endeavoring to provide employment for hundreds of women of my race. I want to say to every Negro woman present, don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them” Madam C.J. Walker
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Article Title: Madam C.J. Walker Biography.com; Author: Biography.com Editors; Website Name: The Biography.com website; URL: https://www.biography.com/people/madam-cj-walker-9522174; Access Date: September 13, 2017; Publisher: A&E Television Networks; Last Updated: April 27, 2017