Hard-working cosmetics queen Sarah Breedlove Walker (1867-1919) was born in Delta, Louisiana, two years after the end of the American Civil War. A sharecropper's daughter who was orphaned at age seven, she beat the odds and became one of the first women millionaires in the United States.
"I got my start by giving myself a start," she once said.
In 1905, she was an uneducated, widowed single mother who moved to St. Louis and became a washerwoman. With innovation and tenacity, she used herbs and oils to create ointments to straighten and care for the hair of African Americans women. To market these tonics with a special flair, she renamed herself and her business Madame C.J. Walker.
With what she described as "honest business dealings," she created the Walker System of hair care and sold her products door-to-door giving free demonstrations throughout the South and Southeast.
She worked hard.
Within seven years her business flourished. Establishing a factory in Indianapolis, she eventually employed 3,000 door-to-door sales representatives and trained each agent herself. Her business included a mail order department and beauty school.
About her passion, she said, "I have always believed in keeping at things with a vim."
An advocate for human rights and education, Walker established a trust fund for black orphans and scholarships for women at the Tuskegee Institute, Bethune-Cookman College, and Palmer Memorial Institute.
Work hard. Ask, "what if?"