In the past, most women were homemakers who raised a family. Some women even tossed their dreams to the wayside and dedicated themselves solely to domestic life. Boy, have times changed, for we live in an era when women can simply have it all. Women can have a career as well as a family if they have the passion, plucky determination and work very hard. During the 2016 campaign, we saw Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was a candidate for the Democratic Party, make history as she became the first woman ever to become a presidential candidate. Even though she lost the election to Republican Donald Trump, she still became a champion for women’s’ rights.
March is Women’s History Month, a time to remember all those distinguished women from the past and the present who have made a real difference in society. Jimmy Carter was the first president to dedicate a week for women’s history. However, many Americans felt that just one week was not enough to highlight all of the contributions that women made and still continue to make to the world. Congress voted to extend women’s history to one month. Women’s History Month finally came into fruition in 1987 during Ronald Reagan’s presidency. Ever since President Reagan, every president has continued to honor the custom of Women’s History Month.
The theme for this year’s Women’s History Month is “Honoring Trailblazing Women in Labor and Business”. If there was a woman who fit the description of trailblazer perfectly, it was Madam C.J. Walker who became the first female millionaire in the United States by starting her own hair care business for African American women. Madam C.J. Walker, whose birth name was Sarah Breedlove, who was an African American entrepreneur, got the idea for her business from the problems she was having with her own hair. Like many black women during her time, she had severe dandruff, other scalp ailments, including baldness due to skin disorders. During that time, when there was not the great variety of hair products that exist now, most women washed their hair with lye soaps that made these conditions even worse.
Walker, who was also trying to provide a better life for her daughter, worked really hard to try to find a solution to the troubles that black women were having with their hair, and she eventually founded a business empire. The hair business was already in her family genes since her two brothers were barbers in St. Louis. She learned all that she could about maintaining healthy and beautiful locks from her brothers. She also learned by doing her own research about hair products, and she became a commission agent selling beauty products for Annie Turnbo Malone, who was an African American hair care businesswoman, in 1904. While she sold products for Malone, she began to work hard to develop her own hair care business.
In 1906, Walker married Charles Walker, and changed her name to Madam C.J. Walker, which was a catchy name that helped her sell her products. Walker, her husband who had a acumen for business, really worked hard to help her sell her products and was very instrumental in advertising as well as in promotions. In 1908, the business began to expand as Walker and her husband moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania opening a beauty parlor and started the Lelia College to train “hair culturists.”
Business boomed so much that Walker started a factory, hair salon and beauty school to train her sales agents and even included a laboratory to research how to make women’s’ hair more healthy and beautiful. She also created many jobs for women training them to become “beauty culturists” using the “Walker System,” which boosted hair growth as well as conditioning the scalp through her beauty products. In 1917, Walker’s company trained nearly 20,000 women in the United States and in the Caribbean and helped to transform their lives by providing them with a good and steady source of income.
In the 1920’s, Walker’s business went global to such nations as Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Panama and Costa Rica. Walker not only made black women’s’ hair more healthy and luxuriant. She also lifted women’s self-esteem by providing them with skills and jobs to become financially independent.
Today we will in a world filled with hair products for all different types of women as hair products are a multi-million dollar business. Entrepreneurs of the past like Walker helped to shape and mold the beauty industry so that all women of all races can have beautiful locks today.