Sarah Breedlove (December 23, 1867 – May 25, 1919), known as Madam C. J. Walker, was an American entrepreneur and philanthropist, regarded as the first female self-made millionaire in America. She made her fortune by developing and marketing a successful line of beauty and hair products for black women under the company she founded, Madam C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company.
Sarah Breedlove was born on December 23, 1867 in Delta, Louisiana to Owen and Minerva Breedlove. She was one of six children; she had a sister Louvenia and four brothers: Alexander, James, Solomon, and Owen Jr. Her parents and elder siblings were slaves on Madison Parish plantation owned by Robert W. Burney. She was the first child in her family born into freedom after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. Her mother died, possibly from cholera, in 1872. Her father remarried and died shortly afterward.
Sarah moved in with her older sister and brother-in-law, Willie Powell. At the age of 14, she married Moses McWilliams to escape Powell’s mistreatment and three years later her daughter, Lelia McWilliams (A’Lelia Walker) was born. When Sarah was 20, her husband died, and Lelia was just 2 years old. Shortly afterward she moved to St. Louis where three of her brothers lived. They were all barbers at a local barbershop. In 1906 she married Charles Joseph Walker, a newspaper advertising salesman.