When Madam C.J. Walker solved one of her own personal problems, she also created an opportunity to leave behind a life as a laundress for one as a successful businesswoman, philanthropist and civil rights activists and she was able to take thousands of women with her. Alaia Williams from the 18 to 49 Podcast graciously fills in as guest co-host with Beckett to talk about the life of this trailblazing role model who began to change her fate by changing the condition of her hair.
Rags to riches stories don’t happen without a lot of hard work, the ability to fill a need, hard work, perseverance and- yeah- hard work. Madam C.J. Walker’s life was all that and more. When she was born on December 23, 1867 in Delta Louisiana, her given name was Sarah Breedlove – and she was the first person in her family who was not born a slave. Not a slave doesn’t mean that the family had any wealth- they didn’t. They were scraping by at best, the children didn’t go to school and, at worst, by the time Sarah was seven, both of her parents had died.
That was only the beginning of the rags portion of her life. We give all the details in the podcast but Sarah was married at 14, a mother at 17 and by 20 she was a widow. She worked as a laundress and saved so that her daughter would have the education she lacked.
Lacking an education does NOT mean lacking intelligence and Sarah had a lot of that. How the formula for her hair care system was developed is wrapped in legend and marketing strategy-but a need to improve the condition of her own hair led Sarah to develop an effective product line, the spirit to create her own business helped her develop a marketing strategy and marriage to Charles Joseph Walker gave her a husband and promotional consultant and a fancy new name- Madam C.J. Walker.
Sarah’s business and sales force were growing quickly thanks to a program that helped black women across the country gain new skills and careers as they learned the “Walker Method” of sales and hair care. Win, win!
Sarah herself kept learning, too. She learned to read and write and drive; she traveled and was able to up her philanthropy on a global scale including large contributions to both the YMCA and the NAACP. She was wealthy by anyone’s standards but was one of the wealthiest black women in America.
Rich in both financial wealth and generous actions, Sarah’s life was going very well. Her daughter and granddaughter were living and working with her; she was active in a number of causes and her social circle was full of artists and activists. She had worked to earn success for herself while helping others achieve their own and had no plans to stop anything- but about a year after moving into her dream house complications from high blood pressure took her life on May 25, 1919.
TIME TRAVEL WITH THE HISTORY CHICKS
Intrigued to hear more from the edutaining Alaia Williams? On the 18-49 podcast she and Brandi Holmes bring you all the class and all the trash in movies, television and pop culture each week, but she does a lot more than that- check it all out at her website, alaiawilliam.com.
The former Walker Manufacturing Plant in Indianapolis, Indiana is on the register of National Historical Landmarks. In it’s heyday the building housed not only a manufacturing facility but a beauty school, pharmacy and movie theater. Now it’s the Madam Walker Theater Center- a theater and educational center...you should go next time you’re there!
Madam Walker’s great, great granddaughter, A’Lelia Bundles is the source for all things Madam Walker. Her personal website as well as several others that she is involved with are where you can find all the pictures we won’t use because, well, we are law abiding chicks. Here is the official Madam C.J. Walker website for even more intel and photos. Read here about Walker’s funeral and about how Woodlawn Cemetery in NY was designated a National Historic Landmark.
Mark your calendars and plan a trip to Washington, DC! On September 24, 2016 the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture will open! Here is a sneak peek from the Washington Post.
If you aren’t in Louisiana you can click around on this site to learn more about the African-American Heritage Trail...but if you ARE in Louisiana you should get busy, there is A LOT to see!
Chris Rock made a documentary covering everything about black women’s hair after his daughter asked, “Daddy, why don’t I have good hair?” Good Hair
Beckett has posted the Pinterest Board for Madam C.J. Walker, she’s got a lot of great things pinned already and will add more as she stumbles across them (like she does for all the episode boards. Go check it out and give us a follow!
We know you were wondering more about Precipitated Sulphur from Chest of Books dot Com, who wouldn’t want to know more? Science.
Finally! You can braid hair in Nebraska without going to jail!
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