Born to former slaves, Madam Walker was orphaned at age seven. She was one of the first American women to become a self-made millionaire. After working as a laundress and cook, she sold hair-care products and set up her own cosmetology business. Madam Walker gave lectures, demonstrations, hired sales agents, started a factory, and had over 200 beauty schools. A patron of the Harlem Renaissance, Walker hosted parties at her home, Villa Lewaro, a house listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a National Treasure, by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Co.
Madam Walker’s interest in creating an ointment to solve her own problems with scalp infections and hair loss was a major influence in developing her business. In 1906, she began marketing Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower. By 1910, using a multi-level marketing system, she had 950 sales agents and thousands of clients. Walker opened Lelia College to train her hair culturists. She sold her products in Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Panama, Costa Rica, and the U.S.A.
Madam Walker gave lectures on social, economic, and political issues. As a leader of the Circle for Negro War Relief, in 1917, she pushed for a training camp for African American army officers. She was a backer of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Daytona Education and Industrial School for Negro Girls and raised money to build a YMCA. She gave scholarships to Tuskegee Institute, helped preserve Frederick Douglass’s Anacostia house, and donated to the NAACP’s anti-lynching fund.
Enrico Caruso suggested to Madam C.J. Walker that she use the first two initials of her daughter’s three names, Lelia Robinson Walker, to name her residence Villa Lewaro. It is one of Vertner Woodson Tandy’s signature achievements and designated as a National Treasure. Built between 1916-1918 the 34-room house was used by Walker as a place to discuss race relations, promote the Harlem Renaissance, and entertain friends including, W.E.B. Dubois and Langston Hughes. Lelia, who changed her name to A’Lelia, inherited the estate when her mother died in 1919, and left it to the NAACP in her will, it is now a private residence.
This Madam C.J. Walker History Mug is part of our biographical series which includes many unique individuals who played an important part in molding our U.S. history.
The biographical History Mugs were created to teach and inspire individuals to learn about our diverse and interesting history. The biographies were researched and written by history enthusiast, Robert Compton. He colorized most of the historic photos and images used on the mugs, which were originally black and white or sepia tone. The images and biographies are imprinted on mugs at his studio in rural Vermont.
- Mugs are food and microwave safe.
- To preserve photographic quality we recommend hand washing.
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