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date: 09 April 2020

Walker, Madame C.J. locked

(1867–1919), African American entrepreneur, philanthropist, activist.
  • Tiffany Ruby Patterson


Born on a Louisiana cotton plantation shortly after the end of slavery, Sarah Breedlove was orphaned at the age of seven. At ten she became a domestic worker, and at fourteen, living in Vicksburg, Mississippi, she married Moses McWilliams. He died in 1887, leaving her with a two-year-old daughter, Lelia (latter known as A'Lelia). Moving to St. Louis, she eked out a living as a washerwoman. Using available products, she also developed hair-care treatments for black women, including remedies for baldness and other scalp conditions brought on by poor diet, stress, and damaging hair treatments.

Recognizing a lucrative market, she developed her own line of products for a growing clientele. She moved to Denver in 1905 and in 1906 married Charles Joseph Walker a journalist who became her business partner and promoter They marketed their products and the Walker System through door to door sales and ...

A version of this article originally appeared in The Oxford Companion to United States History.

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