Who Was Madame CJ Walker? Here’s her Biography and Quotes

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who was madam cj walker

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In regards to slavery, our world has come a long way.  Fewer people in today’s age say they’ve dealt with the type of slavery where one man considers the other property.  Common inequality issues we deal with today are like:

  • Self-limiting beliefs
  • Gender inequality
  • Racial inequality
  • Personal tragedy
  • and, Abusive relationships of all sorts

These issues can reach extremes where they make people feel like slaves, and when you’re in one of these situations, it can be tough deciding what to do.  Furthermore, it can be nearly impossible to envision the journey you could take to reach high levels of success especially if you don’t have an example to follow. To view this content in video, visit here:

Life Distractions and Maintaining Momentum

You’d be surprised how much toll a toxic relationship can have on your daily productivity.  In Madame CJ Walker’s time, the slavery of African Americans was an example of toxicity they dealt with, but maybe for you, you may be dealing with an argumentative spouse, parents who tell you “you can’t”, or friends who scoff at your dreams.

You may have plans to work on your business, but these scoffers who don’t believe in your dream may say things that completely derails your train of thought, and causes a major distraction.  Rather than accomplishing a full 12 hours of work and accomplishing many goals, you might find yourself only having 6 hours of work and many tasks left undone.

If you allow it, these toxic encounters can compile together to become a giant mountain of distraction that makes it nearly impossible to accomplish your dreams.  Therefore, it’s important to study people like Madame CJ Walker who have overcome adversity.  Successful entrepreneurs who have overcome the turmoil of severing ties to naysayers, and who understand what it’s like to be mocked can serve as a great sense of inspiration to you as you grow as an entrepreneur.

who was madam cj walkerWho was Madam CJ Walker? | A Biography

Known today as one of America’s most successful black women entrepreneurs of the late 1800’s-early 1900’s, Madame CJ Walker is one inspirational woman to study.

Born on a Louisiana plantation just after the Civil War, Madame CJ Walker was no stranger to poverty, adversity, and discrimination.  She was orphaned at the age of 7, and is known for saying “I got myself by giving myself a start”.  Her story demonstrates the power any of us has when we have determination, work ethic, and execution.

She survived by working as a sharecropper in cotton fields with her older sister, Louvenia.  At 14, she married Moses McWilliams to escape the abuse of a abusive brother in-law.  She gave birth to a daugther named Lelia in June 1885, and became a widow at age 20.

As a single mother, she struggled to raise Lelia.  She moved to St. Louis to join her brothers who were a little more established as barbers, but it’s recorded that she was earning $1.50 per day.  Despite her extreme poverty, Madame Walker paid for her daughter to go to public school.

She developed relationships that compromised her thinking, and began her journey to view the world in a different light.  Then, in the 1890s when her hair started falling out, she began seeking solutions.  Losing her hair made her feel very insecure, so she adamantly searched for answers.

After trying other products on the market, and testing out mixtures for her hair, she found a mixture that worked.  Others started asking her about how she solved the problem with her hair, and she began sharing her story and her hair care solutions.

After realizing the demand for hair care solutions, Madame CJ Walker began formerly producing her products, selling door-to-door, and going on sales crusades.  As her sales grew, Walker reinvested the income to build the manufacturing to support it, and started a school that taught women to become sales agents.

The growth of the direct sales component of her business operated so well that many women made more than 10x what they could working somewhere else or having a job.  The success of Madame CJ Walker and all those in connection (the agents, attorneys, etc.) led the group to have lots of political influence and clout, and philanthropy opened many doors to notoriety and fame.

As a result of everything Madame CJ Walker did in her life, she;s still known today for:

  • Being the first black woman millionaire in the US
  • Growing a very large and profitable hair care company
  • Making very influential petitions to the government about women’s rights, anti-lynching, and equality
  • and, she collaborated with very influential people like Booker T. Washington

Madam CJ Walker Quotes

Added to her notoriety, she’s known for very powerful quotes that speak on willpower, determination, and hard work like these…

“I want you to understand that your first duty is to humanity. I want others to look at us and see that we care not just about ourselves but about others.” ~ Madam C. J. Walker

“America doesn’t respect anything but money. What our people need is a few millionaires.” ~ Madam C. J. Walker

“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 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.” ~ Madam C. J. Walker

“I got my start by giving myself a start.” ~ Madam C. J. Walker

“I want the great masses of my people to take a greater pride in their personal appearance and to give their hair proper attention.” ~ Madam C. J. Walker

“One night I had a dream, and in that dream a big black man appeared to me and told me what to mix up for my hair. I made up my mind I would begin to sell it.” ~ Madam C. J. Walker


“I am not ashamed of my past. I am not ashamed of my humble beginning.” ~ Madam C. J. Walker

“I am not merely satisfied in making money for myself, for I am endeavoring to provide employment for hundreds of women of my race. … I want to say to every Negro woman present, don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them!” ~ Madam C. J. Walker

“If I have accomplished anything in life it is because I have been willing to work hard.” ~ Madam C. J. Walker

Madam CJ Walker Video Playlist

This playlist includes documentaries and life lessons for your to learn from Madam CJ Walker:

Recommendations for More on Madame CJ Walker

Madame CJ Walker is still widely known, studied, and spoken about even one century after her death.  Her great great granddaughter has released alot of information to help others who want to study deeper in black history, US history, or who want to study her as a successful entrepreneur.  For more information about Madame CJ Walker, these are the best resources…

Final Words answering “Who was Madam CJ Walker?”

The goal of this article was to show the life of Madam CJ Walker and how you can overcome adversity by following the example of successful entrepreneurs. If you have questions or concerns about this, don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments section.  I’d love to help you out!

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Now, it’s Your Turn…

What resonated most to you about this biography on Madame CJ Walker?  Which quote was your favorite?  What have you learned from Madame CJ Walker? Leave your comments and questions below.

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10 thoughts on “Who Was Madame CJ Walker? Here’s her Biography and Quotes”

  1. It’s a great great story.  She was a very resilient woman from an early age because she could have just given in to the ways of the time.

    My favourite quote is “IT’S PRETTY HARD for the Lord TO GUIDE YOU IF YOU HAVEN’T MADE UP YOUR MIND WHICH WAY TO GO.”  I would replace ‘Lord’ to say ‘anyone’.

    Oh yes I have people who don’t believe such as my wife so I do most of my work when she’s at work.

    1. I love Madame CJ Walker’s story. It’s good that you continue to pursue your dream even though you don’t have the support you might want. It’s important to continue to keep hope and work towards your dream and not become resentful because of their disbelief. She’ll see the results if you persist.

  2. julienne murekatete

    I am so pleased by this saying

    “I am not merely satisfied in making money for myself, for I am endeavoring to provide employment for hundreds of women of my race. … I want to say to every Negro woman present, don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them!” ~ Madam C. J. Walker

    I can’t sit too and wait for opportunities, i have to work to make my dream reality

    Thank you for sharing this post

  3. Thanks for this post! What a remarkable and inspriartional woman. Thank you for sharing he story, I had not heard of her before. I particularly enjoyed the quotes section, there is some powerful stff in there, my favourite is “I want you to understand that your first duty is to humanity…. ” Thanks again.

  4. I hadn’t heard of Madame CJ Walker before I read your article, but now I want to know even more about her! But why haven’t I heard of her? She sounds like a true inspiration that everyone should know about. A couple of the quotes of hers stuck out to me. 

    “I got my start by giving myself a start.” – I love this. She didn’t sit around and wait for things to happen. She MADE them happen. And she didn’t let her rough beginning stop her. I see people all the time stuck in the past and not willing to move on and they let that stop their dreams. 

    And this one: “IT’S PRETTY HARD for the Lord TO GUIDE YOU IF YOU HAVEN’T MADE UP YOUR MIND WHICH WAY TO GO.” Wow! This is pretty much one of the things I took most out of the book “Think and Grow Rich.” You’ve got to make a firm decision about what you want. Then you’ll be led along the right path.

    Thank you for sharing about this amazing woman! 

    1. Hi Christina! Madame CJ Walker had an amazing story. She lived in the thick of racial turmoil and before feminism and gender equality, but still was able to accomplish so much. Glad you enjoyed!

  5. I believe reading and learning from life stories of people like Madam you pointed out in your article have great benefits for your readers in today’s society. I love reading autobiography books. Some of those book that I have read have impacted my life down the line. Those books have real life stories that we can learn from. You have laid out well in your article to get the interest of your audiences to further look into Madam’s life. Thanks!

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