Sarah Breedlove was born on December 23, 1867, in Delta, Louisiana, to a family of poor sharecroppers. Sarah was the first born free of a family of three children. The Breedloves had worked as slaves on cotton plantation in Louisiana, to gain their freedom at the end of the U.S. Civil War in 1965. At age six, she was orphaned, and four years later, she went to live with her sister Louvenia in Vicksburg, Mississippi.
However, Louvenia's husband, Jesse Powell, treated Sarah cruelly, and she left their home at age fourteen, when she married Moses McWilliams, with whom she had a daughter, Lelia (later known as A'lelia). Widowed at 20, Sarah McWilliams had to find a way to support herself and her daughter. She moved to St Louis, Missouri, where her brothers were working as barbers. There she work hard doing laundry, earning about $1, 50 per day and she attended public night school.
She also saves as much money as possible to educate her daughter.
During this time she suffered from a scalp problem that caused hair loss, and she tried various remedies that were reputed to restore hair. None of them work. Then Sarah tried to make her own formula. She finally came up with a conditioning salve that improves her hair. Later she told people that the idea for this formula had come to her in a dream.
In 1905, Sarah McWilliams moved to Denver, Colorado and began selling her products there while also working as a cook. The next year she married newspaperman Charles Joseph Walker and began using the name Madam C. J. Walker. As the business grew, Madam C.J. Walker hired more and more saleswomen, called Walker agents, who were trained to give people hair treatments and demonstrate the right way to...