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Theresa Leininger-Miller

entrepreneur, hair-care industry pioneer, political activist, and philanthropist. Many newspapers called Walker, born Sarah Breedlove, the first female African American self-made millionaire. The daughter of the former slaves Owen Breedlove and Minerva Breedlove, Walker was the first member of her family born free on the Burney family cotton plantation in Delta, Louisiana. She and her five siblings were raised in poverty on farms there and in Mississippi. Walker was orphaned by age seven, and she had little more than three months of formal education. She lived with her older sister Louvenia and her sister's cruel husband in Vicksburg, Mississippi, until 1882, when she married Moses McWilliams at the age of fourteen. Their only child Lelia (who renamed herself A'Lelia in 1922 for unknown reasons) was born in 1885. After Moses McWilliams died in about 1888 Walker moved with her daughter to Saint ...


A'Lelia Perry Bundles

“I got myself a start by giving myself a start,” Madam C. J. Walker often said of her unlikely personal transformation from an uneducated washerwoman into a hair care industry pioneer during the first two decades of the twentieth century.

Born Sarah Breedlove on a Delta, Louisiana, cotton plantation near the banks of the Mississippi River, she was the fifth of Owen and Minerva Anderson Breedlove’s six surviving children and the first freeborn Breedlove sibling. Her parents had been slaves on Robert W. Burney’s Madison Parish farm, which had been commandeered by General Ulysses S. Grant as a Civil War battle staging area during the 1863 Siege of Vicksburg. Both parents died before Sarah’s eighth birthday.

Left orphans, Sarah and her younger brother Solomon moved with her married elder sister Louvenia Breedlove Powell across the river to Vicksburg around 1878 after a succession of failed cotton ...


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 ...