The Top 100 Greatest New Yorkers — #52
Madame C.J. Walker (1867 – 1919)
Born Sarah Breedlove in rural Louisiana, the woman who would grow up to become the first female self-made millionaire in the U.S. was the first child in her enslaved family born into freedom. Making her way between husbands who either died or divorced, and jobs that paid little but demanded much, Madame C.J. Walker finally found her niche when her own discomfort from dandruff and other scalp ailments provoked her into creating a new line of hair care products. Combining her own experience with new lessons in business, she created a cosmetics empire that moved from Pittsburgh, to Indianapolis, to Harlem, where Walker lived with her daughter during her final decade. There, she became a staple of the ever striving and growing high society, riding her chauffeur-driven car to her elegant mansion on West 136th Street. From there, Walker employed over 3,000 women – many in upper management positions – in her cosmetics company. The site of the mansion is now home to the Countee Cullen branch of the New York Public Library.
- Posted in: 10 Best List