Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Black History ****Madame CJ Walker****

 

"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.”

Madam Walker,
National Negro Business League Convention,
July 1912
Madame CJ Walker was born Sarah Breedlove, she made it possible for women of colour to express the concerns they had with their hair and to also be able for many women of colour to now choose being a natural women, permed, or weaves whatever you choose.  Madam CJ Walker was an entrepreneur, philanthropist and social activist. Born in December 23, 1867  to former slaves and five sibilings she transformed herself into one of the most powerful black women of her time. Madame CJ Walker always said "she got her start by giving herself a start". Growing up was hard, orphaned at he age of seven she worked wih her old sister worked in cotton fields to survive. At the age of fourteen she married her husband Moses McWilliams and had her only daughter A'Leila Walker June 6, 1885. When her husband died two years later she moved to St. Louis to join her four brothers who had establish themselves as barbers. She was able to educe her daughter by saving the little money she made, $1.50 a day. She began to view the world differently through friendship of other black women of St. Paul A.M.E church and the National Association of Coloured women.
In the 1920's Sarah began to suffer from a scalp aliment that caused her to lose most of her hair. Se experimented with many homemade remedies and store bought products, including those made by Annie, Malone, another black woman entrepreneur. In 1905 she became a sales agent for Malone, then married her third husband Charles Joseph Walker, a St Louis newspaperman. She then changed her name to " Madam" C.J. Walker. She founded her  own business and began selling Madam Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower, a scalp conditioning and healing formula, which she claimed had been revealed to her in a dream.
Madam Walker, by the way, did NOT invent the straightening comb or chemical perms, though many people incorrectly believe that to be true. To promote her products, the new “Madam C.J. Walker” traveled for a year and a half on a dizzying crusade throughout the heavily black South and Southeast, selling her products door to door, demonstrating her scalp treatments in churches and lodges, and devising sales and marketing strategies. In 1908, she temporarily moved her base to Pittsburgh where she opened Lelia College to train Walker “hair culturists.”
By early 1910, she had settled in Indianapolis, then the nation’s largest inland manufacturing center, where she built a factory, hair and manicure salon and another training school. Less than a year after her arrival, Walker grabbed national headlines in the black press when she contributed $1,000 to the building fund of the “colored” YMCA in Indianapolis.

In 1913, while Walker traveled to Central America and the Caribbean to expand her business, her daughter A’Lelia, moved into a fabulous new Harlem townhouse and Walker Salon, designed by black architect, Vertner Tandy. “There is nothing to equal it,” she wrote to her attorney, F.B. Ransom. “Not even on Fifth Avenue.”

Walker herself moved to New York in 1916, leaving the day-to-day operations of the Madam C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company in Indianapolis to Ransom and Alice Kelly, her factory forelady and a former school teacher. She continued to oversee the business and to work in the New York office. Once in Harlem, she quickly became involved in Harlem’s social and political life, taking special interest in the NAACP’s anti-lynching movement to which she contributed $5,000.

In July 1917, when a white mob murdered more than three dozen blacks in East St. Louis, Illinois, Walker joined a group of Harlem leaders who visited the White House to present a petition advocating federal anti-lynching legislation.

As her business continued to grow, Walker organized her agents into local and state clubs. Madam C. J. Walker Hair Culturists Union of America convention in Philadelphia in 1917 must have been one of the first national meetings of businesswomen in the country. Walker used the gathering not only to reward her agents for their business success, but to encourage their political activism as well.

“This is the greatest country under the sun,” she told them. “But we must not let our love of country, our patriotic loyalty cause us to abate one whit in our protest against wrong and injustice. We should protest until the American sense of justice is so aroused that such affairs as the East St. Louis riot be forever impossible.”

By the time she died at her estate, Villa Lewaro, in Irvington-on-Hudson, New York, she had helped create the role of the 20th Century, self-made American businesswoman; established herself as a pioneer of the modern black hair-care and cosmetics industry; and set standards in the African-American community for corporate and community giving.

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 commented. “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 truly was an inspirational business women and when I see so many women who are entrepreuenrs I am so proud that we continue to achieve what was once thought of as impossible.





www.madamcjwalker.com
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