Women’s History Month: Madame C.J. Walker

Today’s National Women’s History Month subject is entrepreneur Madame C.J. Walker, who launched a viable business in the 1890s, during a time when women couldn’t even vote.

Walker invented a hair treatment for African American hair that would remedy a common scalp condition that she herself struggled with and caused her own hair loss.

Walker traveled the country promoting her product at demonstrations, conventions and lectures.

With demand increasing for Madame Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower, she started a mail-order business then opened a laboratory and established headquarters in Indianapolis in 1905.

Employees – called Walker Agents – sold her Walker System door– to–door. She opened a college to train her “hair culturists” and expanded the business to include a wide range of cosmetics, too.

At one point over 3,000 employees worked at Madame C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company.

Walker is the first African American woman to become a self-made millionaire and one of the first examples of a modern-day businesswoman.

Content provided by Oakland University


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