Madam C.J Walker Facts for Kids: Exploring the Life of the 1st African American Female Millionaire!

Today, we are going to learn about the 1st African American Female Millionaire, the amazing Madam CJ Walker, whose real name was Sarah Breedlove. She was a pioneer, entrepreneur, inventor, and philanthropist and made groundbreaking contributions that left a lasting impression on the world. In this article, we’ll uncover fascinating Madam CJ Walker’s facts for kids and learn about her life and impact on the world.

Madam C.J Walker Facts for Kids
Madam Walker Image curiosity of history.com

Early Life of Madam C.J Walker

Madam C.J Walker was born Sarah Breedlove. Sarah was born on a cotton plantation in Delta, Louisiana, on December 23rd, 1867.

Sarah’s parents were named Owen and Minerva. Owen and Minerva were born into slavery. They had six children together. In 1863, While married, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring that all slaves were now free. Sarah was the first one of their children who was not born a slave.

By the time Sarah turned 7, both her parents passed away. After the death of her parents, she moved with her sister to Mississippi, where she and her sister worked in the cotton fields.

At the age of 14, Sarah married Moses McWilliams. They had a daughter named A’Lelia. Sadly, Moses died when A’Leia was only two years old.

In 1889, she took A’Leia and moved to St. Louis, Missouri, to be with four brothers who worked as barbers.

While in St. Louis, Sarah found a job making $1.50 a day as a laundress and cook. She saved money and went to school in the evenings.

Sarah met and married her second husband in 1884 but got a divorce in 1903.

In St. Louis, Sarah met her third husband, Charles ]oseph Walker

Madam C.J Walker, the Inventor

During the late 1800s and early 1900s, most Americans did not have indoor plumbing, central heating, or electricity like we do today. This meant that they didn’t wash themselves or their hair as often as we do today. Many people suffer from scalp disease, causing hair loss.

Sarah herself was losing her hair.  She experimented with home remedies to create a healthier scalp. With a lot of hard work and mixing ingredients, she discovered something that helped regrow and strengthen hair.

She developed Vegetable Shampoo, Wonderful Hair Grower, Vanishing Cream, and other beauty products for black women. Her system of treating hair would later be called the “Walker System” or “Walker Method.”

Sarah didn’t stop there. She went on to create special shampoos and other beauty products, like the Vegetable Shampoo, Wonderful Hair Grower, and Vanishing Cream, just for black women like herself.

Her inventions became popular and helped many people care for their hair.

Madam CJ Walker hair products
Image curiosity of National Museum of African American History and Culture

Promoting Madam C.J Walker

Her husband, Charles J Walker, was in advertising and thought it would help her business to go by a flashier name.  Sarah started calling herself Madame C.J Walker.

In 1905, she traveled around the country talking to women about her products, the Walker System, and doing demonstrations.  Women loved the products.

She became a successful businesswoman and hired hundreds of women called Walker Agents who helped sell her products.

In 1908, she opened a beauty school and factory in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Madam Walker named the school after her daughter A’Leia.

In 1910, she moved to Indianapolis and built a factory for her company called the Walker Manufacturing Company.  Walker’s beauty products were sold to many women across the country.

In 1912, Madam Walker divorced her husband, Charles Joseph Walker.

Madam CJ Walker School
Image Curiosity of Indiana Historical Society

Madam CJ Walker Facts: Creating a Legacy

Madam Walker used her success to help other African Americans.  She founded scholarships for black students, donated money to different African-American institutions, and lobbied politicians for civil rights.

She contributed to the YMCA, donated to the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and paid tuition for six African American students at the Tuskegee Institute.

Walker wanted African-American women to get ahead and have careers where they could make a decent living.  She opened a school called the Walker College of Hair Culture. 

There, women were trained to style hair, sell Walker’s products, and even given the opportunity to open their own beauty salons. “I am not satisfied in making money for myself,” she told a 1914 convention of the National Negro Business League. “I endeavor to provide employment for hundreds of the women of my race.”

Madam Walker’s business grew rapidly; she employed over 40,000 African American women and men in the United States, Central America, and the Caribbean.

Sarah Breedlove, AKA Madam C.J Walker, spent her life empowering African-American Women.  She died on May 25, 1919, of kidney failure.  Walker’s daughter, A’Lelia Walker, became the C.J Walker Manufacturing Company president.

Through creativity, determination, and hard work, Madam CJ Walker made a big difference in the world of beauty for people who looked like her.