Madam C.J. Walker was the first American woman to make a million dollars. She did it through a lot of hard work and savvy marketing of cosmetics products, such as this "Wonderful Hair Grower."
Photograph courtesy The Children's Museum of Indianapolis (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Download this file

  • Select Text Level:

    On December 23, 1867, Sarah Breedlove was born in Delta, Louisiana. As an adult, Breedlove took the name “Madam C.J. Walker” to form the Walker Manufacturing Company. Madam C.J. Walker was one of the first women to be a self-made millionaire in the United States.
    The Walker Manufacturing Company manufactured, marketed, and sold a wide variety of cosmetics and beauty products. The company is best known for its array of hair-care products for African American women like Walker herself. 
    Walker was a smart businesswoman and shrewd marketer. To stop other businesses from copying her products, she placed her own photo on every product her company produced. She also established a business training college—Leila College, named after her daughter—that taught women how to sell Walker products and start their own Walker franchises. By providing entrepreneurial training for African American women, Walker was able to expand her customer base and help empower other women.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    array Noun

    large group.

    business Noun

    sale of goods and services, or a place where such sales take place.

    cosmetics Noun

    substances applied to the body to make it appear more attractive.

    customer Noun

    consumer, or someone who buys something.

    diet Noun

    foods eaten by a specific group of people or other organisms.

    Encyclopedic Entry: diet
    empower Verb

    to give authority or power.

    entrepreneur Noun

    person who starts and manages a business.

    establish Verb

    to form or officially organize.

    expand Verb

    to grow or get larger.

    financial Adjective

    having to do with money.

    franchise Noun

    licensed group of connected works, such as films, books, and video games.

    independent Adjective

    free from influence, threat, or support.

    manage Verb

    to control or organize a situation or activity.

    manufacture Verb

    to make or produce a good, usually for sale.

    marketing Noun

    art and science of selling a product.

    secure Verb

    to guarantee, or make safe and certain.

    shrewd Adjective

    smart and quick-witted.