Black Women Entrepreneurs
Madam C. J. Walker meeting with the Japanese publisher S. Kuriowa, a member of the Japanese delegation to the Paris Peace Conference, at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York in January 1919, to discuss the representation of people of color at the postwar proceedings. The meeting, called by the executive committee of the International League of Darker Peoples, included A. Philip Randolph, R. D. Jonas, Thomas Wallace Swann, C. T. McGill, and Louis George. Courtesy A'Lelia Bundles/Walker Family Collection/Madamcjwalker.com
Hair care products were, and still are, a big business. Annie Turnbo Malone's biggest competitor was Madam C. J. Walker (1867–1919), another nineteenth century hair care magnate who amassed a sizeable fortune selling products such as "Madame Walker's Wonderful Hair Grower." Ironically, Walker started her career working as a sales agent for Malone in St. Louis during the World's Fair, although this was a fact Walker did not often admit publicly. Competition between the two women grew fierce, with Malone accusing Walker of stealing her formulas and marketing them as her own. Walker, for her part, maintained that the recipe for her "Wonderful Hair Grower" had been revealed to her in a dream. Despite their rivalry, both Walker and Malone became highly successful. Although her business was based in Indianapolis, Indiana, Walker also exploited the mail-order market with great success, accumulating enough wealth that she was able to devote the later half of her life to philanthropy and political activism.