timeline

born 1867

Orphaned at the age of 7 and widowed by 20, Sarah Breedlove was forced to become an expert at fending for herself and her daughter. Going from a dollar-a-day washer woman to a cosmetics mogul who formulated her own world-famous hair products, Sarah transformed herself into the magnificent + munificent Madame C.J. Walker.  

Her brilliant marketing schemes were not mere self-promotion ~ she also worked tirelessly to provide professional opportunities for women and secure civil rights for all people. She died the wealthiest African-American woman, willing 2/3 of future profits to charity, a legacy lovingly carried on by her family.

bio bits

her quotes

all quotes by Madam C.J. Walker (13)

"Worth more than it Costs"

marketing campaign for Mme C.J. Walker's Preparations for the Hair | 1906

"I have built my own factory on my own ground!"

comment to Booker T. Washington | july 1912

"Surely you are not going to shut the door in my face. I feel that I am in a business that is a credit to the womanhood of our race."

The Thirteenth Annual Convention of the National Negro Business League | august 1912

"I am a woman who came from the cotton fields of the South; I was promoted from there to the washtub; then I was promoted to the cook kitchen, and from there I promoted myself into the business of manufacturing hair goods and preparations."

Thirteenth Annual Convention of the National Negro Business League | august 1912

"I am not ashamed of my past; I am not ashamed of my humble beginning. Don't think that because you have to go down in the wash-tub that you are any less a lady!"

Thirteenth Annual National Negro Business League convention | august 1912

"Now I realize that in the so-called higher walks of life, many were prone to look down upon 'hair dressers' as they called us; they didn't have a very high opinion of our calling, so I had to go down and dignify this work, so much so that many of the best women of our race are now engaged in this line of business, and many of them are now in my employ."

Fourteenth Annual Convention of the National Negro Business League | august 1913

"I have made it possible for many colored women to abandon the wash-tub for more pleasant and profitable occupation."

Fourteenth Annual Convention of the National Negro Business League | august 1913

"Girls and women of our race must not be afraid to take hold of business endeavor and, by patient industry, close economy, determined effort, and close application to business, wring success out of a number of business opportunities that lie at their doors."

Fourteenth Annual Convention of the National Negro Business League | august 1913

"Don't sit down and wait for opportunities to come . . . get up and make them!"

Fifteenth Annual Convention of the National Negro Business League | august 1914

"Open Your Own Shop; Secure Prosperity and Freedom"

Mme C.J. Walker's Preparations for the Hair | 1917

"Keep in mind that you have something that the person standing before you really needs, imagine yourself a missionary and convert him."

Hints to Agents | 1917

"Perseverance is my motto."

First Convention of the Madam C.J. Walker Hair Culturists Union of America | august 1917

"There is no royal flower-strewn road to success, and if there is, I have not found it, for what success I have obtained is the result of many sleepless nights and real hard work."

First Convention of the Madam C.J. Walker Hair Culturists Union of America | august 1917
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curated with care by Alicia Williamson