Madame C.J. Walker was an African American inventor and philanthropist who was the first African American self-made female millionaire in the United States. She made her money from the sales of hair care products.
Madame Walker was born Sarah Breedlove in Louisiana in 1867. Her parents were sharecroppers who died before she was 7 years old. She married at 14, but became a widow by age 20. By then she had a 2-year-old daughter. She later married the journalist Charles Walker.
Walker moved to St. Louis and worked as a laundress, like many African-American women. When she began to lose her hair, she took matters in to her own hands and developed her specialized hair care products and techniques known as the "Walker system." This system targeted African Americans, especially African American women. After a while, her company grew to the point where she had a force of door-to-door saleswomen among her 3,000 employees.
When Walker?s wealth grew, she bought a Manhattan townhouse and a country estate in upstate New York, but she also lavished money on scholarships, African-American charities and institutions such as the black YMCA and the NAACP. She passed away in 1919 but the company?s headquarters, the Walker Building, was not finished until 1927. It remains in Indianapolis as of 2015.