Sarah watched the children of the house play in the grass. She was busy washing dishes from their lunch, but she was also supposed to make sure the children didn’t get too dirty. They were going somewhere special as soon as their mother was ready.
The problem was, the children of the house didn’t think it was all that important to listen to her. She was just hired help for one thing. For another, she was younger than some of them.
Even though she was the first child in her family to be born free, she already had to work for a living even though she was only 10 now. Her Mama died when she was 5 and her Daddy died when she was 7. Her sister Louvinia got married, though, and started her own house in Mississippi. She said Sarah could stay with her.
But Sarah’s brother-in-law, Jesse, said she had to work for her living. So she went to work for the Livingstons and thought things would be okay.
It was hard to work for a family, though. There were a lot of things that needed to be done all the time. The oldest child, James was always making a mess with all the things he tracked in on his shoes since he spent most of his time outside with the horses. He would be a man soon, so they were teaching him what he was supposed to do when he grew up.
Lettie was about Sarah’s age. Sometimes Sarah thought they might be good friends if Sarah didn’t have to work all the time. Lettie sometimes let Sarah take a break in her room and the two girls would play tea party together.
But then Mistress would catch them and yell at them both. Lettie would be sent off to spend time with her other friends and Sarah would be given extra hard chores like beating the dust out of the rugs or washing the family’s laundry.
It was all good practice, though. When Sarah grew up and got married, she didn’t know her husband would die early, too. She had to work extra hard then so she could take care of her daughter. Then she got married again, but being married wasn’t really working for her as much as working for herself was.
Sarah worked very hard and was always helping her neighbors and friends. She eventually became known as Madam C.J. Walker since her husband’s name was C.J. Walker.
She always had problems with her hair. She didn’t like any of the shampoos or soaps that were available to her. She felt they were always drying her hair too much and making it break. She also had problems with her skin for the same reason.
So, she started to make her own soaps and shampoos. They were much better for her skin and hair and she started to look very healthy again. Her friends and neighbors wanted to know how she did it. Like the good person she was, she shared her products with them.
So many people wanted to use her products, though, that she couldn’t keep up with it all. She had to start her own business and sell her products. More than just selling her products, though, Madam Walker went door to door and taught her customers how to use them for best results. She also went around the country and spoke to large crowds about the importance of using safe products and good hygiene.
Her company became very successful. So successful that Madam C.J. Walker (1867-1919) became the first self-made millionaire African-American female business owner. She used her money to help educate and train other women on how to start their own businesses and become wealthy.