Madame C.J. Walker: First Female Self-Made Millionaire in the U.S.

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Madam C. J. Walker in 1914. (Credit: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History : Archives Center.)

Madam C. J. Walker in 1914. (Credit: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History : Archives Center.)

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LANHAM, Md. (CBSDC/WPGC) - To say Madame C.J. Walker was ahead of her time would be an understatement.

She was the first female self-made millionaire in the United States, earning the distinction in the early 1900’s. Walker made her fortune by developing and marketing a successful line of beauty and hair products.

According to the National Women’s Hall of Fame, Walker was born to former slaves in 1867. In 1905, she started developing her hair care and grooming systems. She later headquartered her company, the largest African-American owned business in the nation, in Indianapolis.

Jet Magazine senior editor Tia Brown says Madame Walker’s products were developed to help black women feel “beautiful and prideful.”

Walker ultimately employed some 25,000 black women, as well, according to Brown.

In addition to her entrepreneurship, Madame Walker was active in civil rights and donated to many black causes, including the NAACP.

Check back all month for WPGC’s tribute to Black History Month.

99.1 WNEW’s Cheryl Simone contributed to this report

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