Women's History Month Spotlight: Madam CJ Walker

by - Monday, March 12, 2012


Women’s History Month had its origins as a national celebration in 1981 when Congress passed Pub. L. 97-28 which authorized and requested the President to proclaim the week beginning March 7, 1982 as “Women’s History Week."  Throughout the next five years, Congress continued to pass joint resolutions designating a week in March as "Women’s History Week."  In 1987 after being petitioned by the National Women’s History Project, Congress passed Pub. L. 100-9 which designated the month of March 1987 as “Women’s History Month."  Between 1988 and 1994, Congress passed additional resolutions requesting and authorizing the President to proclaim March of each year as Women’s History Month.  Since 1995, Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama have issued a series of annual proclamations designating the month of March as “Women’s History Month.



Sarah Breedlove McWilliams Walker, better known as Madame CJ Walker or Madame Walker, together with Marjorie Joyner revolutionized the hair care and cosmetics industry for African American women early in the 20th century.Changing her name to Madame CJ Walker, Sarah founded her own business and began selling her own product called Madam Walker's Wonderful Hair Grower, a scalp conditioning and healing formula. To promote her products, she embarked on an exhausting sales drive throughout the South and Southeast selling her products door to door, giving demonstrations, and working on sales and marketing strategies. In 1908, she opened a college in Pittsburgh to train her "hair culturists." Eventually, her products formed the basis of a thriving national corporation employing at one point over 3,000 people. Her Walker System, which included a broad offering of cosmetics, licensed Walker Agents, and Walker Schools offered meaningful employment and personal growth to thousands of Black women. Madame Walker’s aggressive marketing strategy combined with relentless ambition led her to be labeled as the first known African-American woman to become a self-made millionaire.
 
Having amassed a fortune in fifteen years, this pioneering businesswoman died at the age of 52. Her prescription for success was perseverance, hard work, faith in herself and in God, "honest business dealings" and of course, quality products. "There is no royal flower-strewn path to success," she once observed. "And if there is, I have not found it - for if I have accomplished anything in life it is because I have been willing to work hard."

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