Washington, Sarah Spencer
- Richlyn Faye Goddard
Madame Sarah Spencer Washington started a cosmetics empire that turned her into one of America’s first black millionaires. A dressmaker from 1905 to 1913, she was then a hairdresser from 1914 to 1915, and a manufacturer of beauty preparations from 1919 until her death.
Born in Berkley, Virginia, to Joshua and Ellen (Mother Spencer) Phillips, Sarah Spencer received her early education in the public schools of Berkley and attended the Lincoln Prep School in Philadelphia. As a young woman, she walked seven miles a day from her home in Berkley to attend school. She graduated from the Norfolk Mission College. Her first job was in the Norfolk printing office of the Elk leader Finley Wilson. She also later studied business administration at Columbia University and described herself as a devout Christian Scientist and a full-fledged Republican. She admired Dr. Charlotte Hawkins Brown ...
A version of this article originally appeared in Black Women in America, 2nd ed.