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“I am a woman that came from the cotton fields of the South; I was promoted from there to the wash-tub; then I was promoted to the cook kitchen, and from there I promoted myself into the business of manufacturing hair goods and preparations.” —Madam C. J. Walker, National Negro Business League Convention, 1912
Now, from a writer acclaimed for her novels and the memoir Crossed Over, a remarkable biography of a truly heroic figure.
Madam C. J. Walker created a cosmetics empire and became known as the first female self-made millionaire in this nation’s history, a noted philanthropist and champion of women’s rights and economic freedom. These achievements seem nothing less than miraculous given that she was born, in 1867, to former slaves in a hamlet on the Mississippi River. How she came to live on another river, the Hudson, in a Westchester County mansion, and in a New York City town house, is at once inspirational and mysterious, because for all that is known about the famous entrepreneur, much that occurred before her magnificent transformation—years that trace a circuitous route across the country—remains obscure.
By breathing life into scattered clues and dry facts, and with a deep understanding of the times and places through which Madam Walker moved, Beverly Lowry tells a story that stretches from the antebellum South to the Harlem Renaissance and bridges nearly a century of our history in her search for the distant truths of a woman who defied all odds and redefined conventional expectations.
“Wherever there was one colored person, whether it was a city, a town, or a puddle by the railroad tracks, everybody knew her name.” —Violet Davis Reynolds, Stenographer, Madam C. J. Walker Co
“Lively, literate biography of the incredible Sarah Breedlove, who rose from perfect poverty to create her own hair-care business and build a mansion on the Hudson ...impeccable research informs a prose that sings, whirls, and delights.” —Kirkus
“This beautifully written biography of Madam C.J. Walker—the African-American cosmetic millionaire from Louisiana—puts the Horatio Alger story to shame. With crystal-clear prose, lively anecdotes and dutiful research Beverly Lowry tells how Walker, against all odds, became a pioneer businesswoman and civil rights activist extraordinaire. Lowry should be saluted for giving Walker the kind of grand historical recognition she deserves.” —Douglas Brinkley, Director of The Eisenhower Center for American Studies and Professor of History at the University of New Orleans