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This Haircare Pioneer Was America’s First Female Self-Made Millionaire

Editor’s Note: This Women’s History Month, Bumble is celebrating women from all walks of life, across centuries and generations, who didn’t believe in sticking to the rules. These founding members of our First Movers Club didn’t let gender norms — or anything else! — hold them back. They left their mark by making the first move, and the world is a better place thanks to their bravery and boldness.

Madame CJ Walker’s own ailments are what led her to become America’s first black woman self-made millionaire. Born in 1867, she suffered hair loss in her late teens and early 20s which traditional beauty products couldn’t resolve. Determined, she created her own homemade scalp treatments for black women which she then sold to customers through a fleet of salespeople. In the wake of her financial success, she raised donated to countless philanthropic organizations and scholarship funds. Read on for more of Walker’s inspiring accomplishments.

  • Walker was the first of her siblings to be born after the abolition of slavery.
  • Walker’s real name was Sarah Breedlove. She began going by Madam CJ Walker after her husband suggested it might help with branding.
  • The haircare system she created for black women is known as ‘The Walker System.’
  • A fierce believer in girl power, the charter of Walker’s company stipulated that only a woman could serve as president.
  • In addition to a businesswoman, Walker was also a powerful philanthropist.
  • In 1912, Walker addressed an annual gathering of the National Negro Business League where she said, “I am a woman who came from the cotton fields of the South. From there I was promoted to the washtub. From there, I was promoted to the cook kitchen. And from there, I promoted myself into the business of manufacturing hair goods and preparations. I have built my own factory on my own ground.

See who else is a First Mover, here!