Madam CJ Walker: Why Her Story Helps Black Women To Understand The 4 Biggest Lessons About About Taking Care Of Ourselves
Madam CJ Walker was unique and a pioneer during an era where black women were deprived of independence and growth opportunities that we take for granted today.
In case you do not know her story, Madam CJ Walker made her fortune through the development and marketing of a line of cosmetics and hair products for black women.
At the time of her death in 1919,she was considered the richest self-made woman in America.
She was also known for her patronage and social change endeavours.
A biopic series of her life, starring Octavia Spencer, will be released on Netflix in early 2020.
As Black Women, it is so important that we know about what Madam Walker achieved in her life and how she helped women at that time.
There are many lessons to learn from her experiences.
She was an astute business woman but also not immune to the afflictions of black women at that time such as hair loss, skin disorders and poor diet.
She also saw a problem that needed fixing and set about finding a solution.
So what are the lessons that we as black women can learn from the Madam Walker story?
Lesson 1: Being natural is OK
During Madam CJ Walker’s time, substances such as Lye and Sulfur were common. However, her products did trigger a movement of research and awareness about black hair care that is ethical and natural which continues today.
We now step out with black hair hairstyles that can be managed without the use of substances which can be harmful to our health and wellbeing.
Madam CJ Walker was an avid promoter of research and training - two valuable routes to helping black women to both look good and stay healthy!
Lesson 2: Financial Independence is OK
As well as running her own Business, Madam CJ Walker showed other black women how to grow their own businesses and encouraged them to become financially independent. She was also a great advocate for using the education of women to achieve that independence. In a time when it was considered normal for women to defer to men, she presented herself as an independent business woman.
A great lesson to all of us that being self-sufficient can work and be empowering.
Lesson 3: Supporting other Women is OK
At a time when being fully employed woman was not common, Madam CJ Walker’s company employed several thousand women to sell its products.
She arranged conferences for women entrepreneurs and employee reward schemes at a time when these initiatives were very rare.
Women supporting other women is OK and important for a powerful and healthy “sisterhood”.
Lesson 4: Education is Key to the growth of Black Women
It is claimed that Madam CJ Walker’s company trained nearly 20,000 women. You would be hard pushed to find a business today training women at that scale! She realised that the future of her company relied on the competence and skills of it’s employees. Amazing forward thinking for that time!
"I am a woman who came from the cotton fields of the South. From there I was promoted to the washtub. From there, I was promoted to the cook's kitchen. And from there, I promoted myself into the business of manufacturing hair goods and preparations. I have built my own factory on my own ground”
She did indeed use Education to change her world and it is a key lesson to all of us of the importance of doing the same.
You can read up more about Madam CJ Walker via this National Women’s History article.
The Madam CJ Walker story is almost inconceivable when you consider the educational, economic and social disadvantages for African Americans at the time.
She became a successful Businesswoman and helped to advance other Black women, despite the obstacles.
As a Fibroid Wellbeing advocate for Black Career Women, her story has taught me that there is nothing (except myself!) that can stop me from doing the same.
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